Through the blowouts of inferior opponents over the last month, the prevailing question remained for Utah fans, pundits and even a few future opponents: Are the Utes for real? Or are they merely a product of one of the weakest nonconference schedules in the country?
Larry Krystkowiak’s team still has to navigate its way through two months of the Pac-12 — one of the best leagues in the country. But for one night — Saturday night — Utah showed a glimpse of what can be.
The 81-64 win over BYU was impressive. Breaking a seven-game losing streak to its bitter rival before 13,733 at the Huntsman Center has to be a relief for the Utes fan base. And the way Utah accomplished this was nothing short of dominant.
Utah trailed just once. The game was tied only a few times in the opening minutes. Sophomore forward Jordan Loveridge scored 12 points in the first six minutes and Delon Wright dominated the second half with his all-around play.
"What Jordan did in the first minutes provided us with a great lift," Krystkowiak said. "These Salt Lake kids, this rivalry means a lot to them. Parker Van Dyke stepped up and hit two threes as well. I’m so happy for Jordan because of the work he put in when nobody else is looking. He was such a catalyst for us this evening."
The Cougars would never be able to string defensive stops together. More damaging, BYU would not be able to find its offense. A team that’s one of the most explosive in the country looked impotent for much of the game. Tyler Haws scored 14 points, but went 3-for-11 from the field. Matt Carlino was even worse, scoring seven points on 3-for-15 shooting. Only Kyle Collinsworth had a good game for the Cougars, and his 12 points and nine rebounds were mostly accomplished before halftime.
Meanwhile, Loveridge scored a game-high 21 points, and added six rebounds and five assists to that total. Wright — who’s been a revelation this season at point guard — scored 16 points, had seven assists and added six rebounds. He did most of that in the second half, when Utah pulled away for good.
Junior center Dallin Bachynski was almost as big as Loveridge and Wright. He came off the bench and scored 11 points and added eight rebounds and two blocked shots. He packed this production into 19 minutes.
Most importantly, he was a roadblock in the lane, discouraging BYU players from driving into the paint.
He was able to neutralize Cougar freshman big man Eric Mika and was a consistent presence in the rebounding department.
"Dallin was huge for us," Krystkowiak said. "He was the one guy battling down there and bringing energy on the offensive glass when we sent four back on defense. He was able to get some big rebounds for us."
With the win, the Utes move to 9-1 on the season. And for one night, the Huntsman Center was full, and loud, and a true home-court advantage.
For one night, it appears Utah may be on the road to recapturing the glory days.
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