Men's hoops: Utes step up heroics against BYU
Coach Jim Boylen said his Utah Utes needed a victory over Brigham Young to keep rebuilding their program, and they needed a hero to step up and help them get it done.
Turns out, a whole team of them showed up.
From center Luke Nevill and his career-high 32 points to guard Luka Drca and his near triple-double, forward Shaun Green and his clutch offensive rebounds and guard Tyler Kepkay and his virtuoso overtime performance, seemingly everybody wearing red and white played a crucial role in a landmark 94-88 overtime victory that snapped a four-game losing streak to their biggest rival in front of 12,250 roaring fans at the Huntsman Center on Tuesday night.
"It means everything," Green said, "especially to the seniors on the team. We've had to deal with so much, just with losing to them on our home court, and down there, and just hearing about it in the offseason and everything. So just to get a win, and the way we did it, just means everything."
Not only did the victory snap the skid against the Cougs, but it also lifted the 13-7 Utes back into a first-place tie in the Mountain West Conference at 4-2, and snapped a six-game losing streak in games in which they trailed with five minutes left.
It was also their sixth-straight win at home, while the Cougars lost for the third time in four games, and fell to 15-5 and 3-3 in the league.
"I was going with my seniors down the stretch," Boylen said. "I wasn't going to sub my four seniors, and I thought they delivered. I'm happy for them."
After missing a chance to win in regulation -- Drca tried a runner too early, Boylen said, allowing BYU's Jonathan Tavernari an errant three-point attempt at the horn -- the Utes seized control in the overtime.
Guard Lawrence Borha buried a three-pointer from the corner on the first possession, and the Utes didn't look back.
"It seemed like they were really on attack," BYU coach Dave Rose said.
Nevill's final basket broke the Utes from a 76-76 tie, and Kepkay sliced through the defense for back-to-back layups that fueled a 7-0 run and surely avenged his notorious late-game problems last season. Kepkay then missed a three-pointer, but the Utes tipped out the first of several crucial offensive rebounds that helped them survive a flurry of Cougar buckets in the final minute. Green had three of them in the OT.
"When it came down to it, they got offensive rebounds at key moments," BYU's Chris Miles said, "and that made the difference."
Forward Lee Cummard scored 23 points to lead the Cougars, but he managed only seven of them after halftime. Miles added 14 and six rebounds while trying to defend Nevill mostly one-on-one, which did not work especially well. Nevill made 10 of 12 shots, 12 of 14 free throws -- the Utes hit 31 of 40, in all -- and grabbed 10 rebounds.
"That's great and all," he said. "But the reason I got that is we distributed the ball well. I got open shots, and that opened up the shooters to make shots, and they were fortunate enough to go in, I guess."
Drca finished with 18 points, nine assists and seven rebounds for the Utes, while Kepkay finished with 19 -- including 10 in the overtime.
IN SHORT » The Utes snap a four-game losing streak to rival Brigham Young with a pulsating 94-88 victory over the Cougs at the Huntsman Center.
KEY STAT » The Utes make 31 of 40 free throws.
KEY MOMENT » Utah's Tyler Kepkay slices through the BYU defense for back-to-back layups midway through the second half.