BYU guard TJ Haws could not convert his long-range bid to subdue Utah, but that miss made for a better story.

The dagger came defensively, when the Cougars’ Elijah Bryant moments later absorbed a Ute charge with BYU leading by 13 points in the last eight minutes Saturday night.

The Cougars did this with defense: BYU 77, Utah 65.

During the brief phase of the Utah-BYU buildup that actually addressed the subject of basketball, Ute coach Larry Krystkowiak covered the Cougars’ revolutionary strategy.

“There’s a commitment to defense by their squad that we haven’t seen in a few years,” Krystkowiak said.

The Cougars demonstrated their newfound ability at the Marriott Center, where the home crowd celebrated the rivalry’s renewal after a one-year break. The Utes, missing freshman forward Donnie Tillman, needed a last-minute flurry to shoot 46.4 percent from the field.

BYU needed this breakthrough in the rivalry, having lost a combined 10 consecutive games to Utah in football and basketball. Having complained about Krystkowiak’s cancellation of last season’s contest, they had to make their own statement on the court. They succeeded in a game that means a lot to them, for multidimensional reasons.

BYU coach Dave Rose wryly downplayed the win, saying, “We beat Utah before, we’ll beat Utah again, if they keep playing us.”

There’s more to it, of course, and BYU maximized the opportunity against everything that Utah represents: a rival, a Power Five opponent and an in-state school. The series is scheduled to continue next December at Vivint Smart Home Arena and in 2019 at the Huntsman Center.

In a stretch of 18 days, the Cougars beat Utah Valley, Utah State, Weber State and Utah in two games on the road, one on a neural court and another at home.

Against the Utes, Bryant scored 29 points, Yoeli Childs added 15 and the Cougars (9-2) held a sixth consecutive opponent under 70 points. The Cougars are 211-9 in Rose’s 13-year tenure when that happens, and the defense came through Saturday.

Bryant, who played all 40 minutes, spoke of “just accountability and knowing how to guard” for the improvement. Rose told a longer story of offseason commitment, how the players decided to get tougher. “Guys are determined that we want to be relevant,” he said.

The return of assistant coach Heath Schroyer, plus more patience and better execution offensively, also have contributed to lower-scoring games — and BYU is winning them.

The Cougars got a nice lift from reserve Payton Dastrup in a second-half stint after Childs was helped to the locker room because of leg cramps. The victory in front of 16,272 fans (about 85 percent of capacity) was “very emotional,” Dastrup said. “I’ve been a bleed-blue guy since birth, pretty much.”

Ordinarily, that would cover all you needed to know about Saturday’s exercise. But this became an extraordinary event, all because of Krystkowiak’s canceling last December’s meeting in response to BYU guard Nick Emery punching Utah’s Brandon Taylor in the late stages of the Utes’ 2015 victory in Salt Lake City.

More accurately, Krystkowiak was decrying the lack of any expression of remorse from Emery or Rose, who kept Emery out of the lineup for only one game.

As the subject of an NCAA investigation into potential extra-benefits violations and having withdrawn from school in November, Emery missed the rematch. He used Twitter in an apparently successful effort to have his jersey represented via a fan in the Marriott Center, saying his No. 4 with “Emery” on the back needed to remain part of the rivalry.

Odds are, his name would have come up, anyway.

Krystkowiak envisioned “a heck of an environment to set foot into for a couple of hours,” and the Marriott Center was loud and lively.

The theme? Safety, of course, playing on Krystkowiak’s reason for buying out the 2016 contract. Students wore construction hats and vests, the band played “Safety Dance” and fans chanted, “That’s not safe” during any kind of scramble when players hit the floor. Then again, Emery cited concerns about his personal safety in a blog about his withdrawal.

Back to basketball. Childs posted 10 points — and in the first 10 minutes as BYU took a 23-11 lead. The Utes (7-3) threatened regularly, but never got within five points the rest of the way.

Speaking of his team’s lapses in road losses to UNLV and Butler, Krystkowiak had said, “You kind of get what you deserve.”

And the Cougars deserved to enjoy this moment, delivered by their defense.