Utah lost to BYU by 19 points at home in the early stages of a 2011-12 season that’s generally not even counted toward coach Larry Krystkowiak’s record, considering the state of the basketball program that he took over.
The Utes trailed BYU by 20 points Saturday in the last two minutes of a 74-59 loss Saturday afternoon in the Zions Bank Beehive Classic.
Nobody's suggesting these Utes (4-4) will fall to the depths of that 6-25 team, but they clearly have a long way to go after being routed at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Even if elements of this defeat can be attributed to the overwhelming performance of BYU's Yoeli Childs, the Cougars' 13-0 run to start the second half and Utah's youth, the Utes regressed offensively Saturday.
If not for Utah's two late 3-pointers, the final score would have resembled the 61-42 defeat that Krystkowiak's first team absorbed when BYU visited the Huntsman Center seven years ago.
“I thought the aggressor won the game, from the beginning,” Krystkowiak said.
Childs' 31-point game overshadowed the only encouraging part of Utah's performance: a strong defensive effort against the other Cougars. At one point, Child was 11 of 13 from the field and his teammates were 6 of 29.
Childs finished 12 of 13 from 2-point range, with a variety of shots, some more difficult than others. The ferocious dunk that Childs threw down over Utah's Both Gach and Novak Topalovic was by far the easiest basket for the Bingham High School alumnus.
“He's their head of the snake, no doubt about it, and he put it on us and did what you're supposed to do in an in-state rivalry when you're in an in-state kid.” Krystkowiak said. “He rose to the occasion and we didn't have many answers for him.”
Childs scored 27 of BYU's first 54 points, a higher percentage of his team's total than Jimmer Fredette's 47 of 104 for BYU against the Utes, prior to Krystkowiak's arrival. Utah did not allow a 30-point scorer last season.
Krystkowiak said he tried his own in-state strategy by starting East graduate Parker Van Dyke in place of Gach, who played less than five minutes of the first half. Gach entered early in the second half and had some good moments, but he couldn't immediately stop the 13-0 run that pushed BYU's lead to 45-28. Utah never got closer than eight points after that.
The Utes missed their first seven shots of the half; some were “ill-advised” and others were “wide open,” by Krystkowiak's account. Regardless of those categories, Sedrick Barefield missed three times, Van Dyke missed twice and Gach and Riley Battin missed once each before Donnie Tillman hit a 3-pointer nearly six minutes into the half.
Barefield led the Utes with 16 points, but shot 6 of 18 from the field. Thirty of the Utes' 52 attempts came from 3-point range (they made 10); Krystkowiak thought most of those were good looks. Timmy Allen added 13 points.
The coaching staff's recent move to a less-structured offense eventually will help, Barefield said, but the adjustment to a new approach is “a challenge.”
The same could be said of Utah’s remaining nonconference schedule. The Utes should dominate two opponents (Florida A&M and Northern Arizona), but they have to visit No. 9 Kentucky next Saturday and end the month against No. 6 Nevada.