College basketball: BYU, Utah State to clash at EnergySolutions Arena
By Kyle Goon
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Nov 29 2013 07:13PM
Spencer Butterfield didn’t grow up in Utah, but he once harbored dreams of playing at BYU.
That’s part of the Utah State senior’s drive on Saturday: To beat the team he once thought he could play for. It’s one of the many passions on both sides of the court that only an in-state rivalry can truly ignite.
"That’s one of our goals: To be the best team in Utah," Butterfield said. "We definitely have motivation to beat them, and we know they’ll have motivation to beat us, too."
On Saturday night at 7, Salt Lake fans will have a chance to see two teams vie for the right to be called the best in state. A fast and high-scoring BYU (5-2) team will go against Utah State (5-0) and its more structured style in the 230th installment of a series that goes way back.
The contrasts have made for hotly contested games that almost always end up favoring the home-court team. That’s why playing on neutral ground adds an extra element to an already tight game.
"They usually go right down to the wire," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "Last year, it was a last possession shot off a rebound that won the game for us. I know our guys are really looking forward to it, and hopefully there’s a great crowd in there and there’s good energy."
The Cougars have only lost two games, but both were to top-10 opponents. BYU has rung up big wins behind the sure-shooting Tyler Haws and fleet-footed Matt Carlino, who account for nearly half the team’s points. Forwards Eric Mika and Kyle Collinsworth also average double-digit points for the Cougars, who play at one of the fastest paces in the country and average more than 88 points per game.
Utah State doesn’t play as quickly but has been efficient on the offensive end. Center Jarred Shaw is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder inside, but Preston Medlin and Spencer Butterfield are equally adept at racking up points beyond the arc. The Aggies have shot 45 percent from 3-point range and outrebound their opponents by an average of 11 boards.
Given the teams’ history of tight games and their successes this season, each coach has a healthy respect for the other’s program. On either squad, there’s a number of different players who can have an big night.
"In your preparation, you’re trying to figure out how to deal with all of them," Morrill said of the Cougars. "It’s not a matter of this guy or that guy. They have good players at every position and are outrebounding very good opponents. All the players are capable."
One thing both teams are working on is defense. BYU has allowed 80 points per game, in part a consequence of its style. But in their most recent game, the Cougars led Witchita State early before letting the game get out of hand late. Utah State beat Weber State in its last game but struggled against the Wildcats’ dribble penetration.