Women’s basketball: Slumping BYU braces for visit from rival Utah

Cougars have lost four straight, while Utes have won six straight

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes guard Tori Williams (2) drives inside with the ball, as Purdue Boilermakers guard Karissa McLaughlin (1) defends, in basketball action Utah Utes vs. Purdue Boilermakers, at the Jon M. Huntsman Center, Monday, Nov. 20, 2017.

Provo • Coach Jeff Judkins lamented Wednesday after the BYU women’s basketball team lost to Utah State for the first time since 1974 that the Cougars didn’t play with energy or focus.

They better find that formula quickly because rival Utah comes to town Saturday with a much better record than the Aggies (2-6) did.

The 7-1 Utes, who have won six straight, take on the 3-5 Cougars, who have lost four straight, at 2 p.m. at the Marriott Center. The rivalry game will be televised by BYUtv.

“It just didn’t seem like we had the effort, the spark [or] the energy to come out and play,” Judkins said after the 76-69 loss to USU.

Utah took a 77-60 win over BYU last year in Salt Lake City. BYU won the last meeting at the Marriott Center, 73-59 in 2015.

“It is a fun game,” Utah coach Lynne Roberts said. “They [have] a good program and they are very well-coached. It is going to be a battle. It always is. Both teams are going to be amped up. It is a rivalry game for a reason, and those are fun.”

This one looks like a mismatch on paper, though. Although they were picked to finish third in the West Coast Conference, the Cougars are going through a rebuilding year.

Utah is powerful inside, which is the guard-oriented Cougars’ weakness. The Utes scored 64 points in the paint in their 89-65 win over Pepperdine on Tuesday and have outscored their opponents 340-202 in the paint this season.

The Cougars are shooting 43 percent from the field and averaging 69.4 points per game. They will need big games from their two leading scorers, guards Cassie Devashrayee and Brenna Chase. BYU also features guard Malia Nawahine, a 9.6-point scorer who will be facing her former team after transferring from Utah in the offseason.

“The community cares about this game, and that is what makes it fun,” Roberts said. “We went down there my first year and there was a great crowd. Both teams want to beat each other really badly and both sets of fans want to beat each other really badly.”

UTAH AT BYU <br>Where • At the Marriott Center, Provo <br>When • 2 p.m. Saturday <br>TV • BYUtv <br>Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, Sirius XM 143, ESPN 700 <br>Records • BYU 3-5, Utah 7-1 <br>Series history • Utah leads 63-42 <br>Last meeting • Utah won 77-60 (Dec. 10, 2016)

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