Saturday's meeting between Utah and BYU should turn into the highest-scoring basketball game in Ute coach Larry Krystkowiak's history against the Cougars.
That’s both a compliment and a critique of the teams, and it will become true only if the Utes do their part offensively at Vivint Smart Home Arena in the opening game of the second annual Zions Bank Beehive Classic.
Utah’s developing offense needs the accommodation that BYU’s defense might provide. And unlike Krystkowiak’s teams of the past, the Utes may lack the stopping power required to deal with BYU’s offense. The logical result would be point totals topping those of Utah’s 83-75 win in December 2015, the last time the teams met in Salt Lake City.
That game at the Huntsman Center is remembered for BYU guard Nick Emery's punch that led to Krystkowiak's interrupting the rivalry for a season. Then came Emery's withdrawal from school last year amid an NCAA investigation, and his reinstatement this week.
Emery’s 11-point performance in 19 minutes Wednesday in a 95-80 win over Utah State in Provo gave him a higher placement on Utah’s scouting report than Krystkowiak anticipated, as of his weekly news conference Tuesday. Krystkowiak suggested BYU coach Dave Rose would have more of an adjustment, working Emery into the lineup. The Utes will have to account for him, and here’s the weird part of the reunion: None of Utah’s players was on the roster three years ago.
That makes Utah’s coaches the only people directed affected by the Emery incident, and Krystkowiak downplayed any emotional response to facing him again. The downtown environment also lessens the effect of Emery’s return to Salt Lake City, although Beehive Classic organizers have tried to create more a college atmosphere this year by lowering student ticket prices.
Asked what kind of reception he expects on the road this season, Emery said, “I understand there is going to be heat at times.”
Otherwise, looking toward Saturday, Emery said BYU would “go into that game like it's any other game.”
Ute senior guard Sedrick Barefield suggested his younger teammates would require little education about the rivalry. “They know what's coming,” he said. “They know how serious it is.”
The rivals' first neutral-court matchup since the 2006 Mountain West tournament in Denver comes when each team is trying to discover itself. The Utes made some progress in last week’s 69-64 defeat of Tulsa, although Krystkowiak wouldn’t give his zone defense full credit for Tulsa’s missing its first 18 shots from 3-point range.
The Utes showed good signs offensively, shooting 50 percent in the second half. Barefield liked Utah's less-structured approach, while saying the offense was far less efficient and smooth than it should become.
BYU, having lost three straight games, overwhelmed Utah State in the first half Wednesday, building a 53-34 lead. Junior forward Yoeli Childs finished with 31 points, matching his total from last weekend’s 113-103 loss at Weber State.
Tribune reporter Jay Drew contributed to this story.
BYU VS. UTAH
At Vivint Smart Home Arena
Tipoff: Saturday, noon.
Radio: ESPN 700, KSL 1160.
Records: BYU 6-4; Utah 4-3.
Series history: BYU leads, 129-128.
Last meeting: BYU 77, Utah 65 (2017).
About the Cougars: With his 31 points against Utah State, Yoeli Childs topped the 20-point mark for the sixth time in 10 games. He has also six doubles-doubles in points and rebounds. … Coach Dave Rose is 42-11 vs. in-state opponents, including wins this season over Utah Valley and USU and a loss to Weber State. … The Cougars beat Weber State last December in the inaugural Beehive Classic. ... BYU will have a similar experience next Saturday, playing UNLV on a neutral court in Las Vegas.
About the Utes: Junior center Jayce Johnson’s 12-point, 12-rebound game vs. Tulsa last weekend was the second double-double of his career and the team’s first of the season. … … Freshman forward Riley Battin moved into the starting lineup vs. Tulsa, replacing another freshman, Timmy Allen. … Freshman guard Both Gach is shooting .483 from the field, .389 from 3-point range and .810 from the free-throw line. … The Utes will visit No. 9 Kentucky next Saturday, marking the third straight week when they will play only one game.