If the radical youth movement underway at the University of Utah eventually pans out, if these kids can collectively do something significant, perhaps bring this program back to true prominence, people should point to Wednesday night as a significant stepping stone.
The Utes, down 16 in the first half and kept at arm’s length for much of the second half, came charging. Spearheaded by a monster second half from Rylan Jones, Utah erased that 16-point deficit, forced overtime, then rode Jones in the extra session to a 102-95 win over in-state forever rival BYU in front of 11,565 at the Huntsman Center.
Jones finished with a career-high 25 points, 18 coming in the second half and overtime. Timmy Allen added a team-high 27 points on 12-for-20 shooting in the win as Utah withstood 29 points on 12-for-16 from Yoeli Childs and another 27 from Jake Toolson.
Childs was making his season debut after serving a nine-game NCAA suspension, stemming from a paperwork error during the NBA Draft process. Childs, who dominated the Utes (5-3) early, left with about eight minutes to go in the game with an apparent injury. He did not return, and Cougars head coach Mark Pope did not have an update postgame.
“The crowd plays a big role in games like this,” Jones said. “When we went on those runs, and finally got over the hump, that was probably the loudest gym I’ve ever been in. It gave us energy, it gave us life, and it led to a victory.”
UTAH 102, BYU 95 (OT)
• Utah freshman point guard Rylan Jones scores a career-high 25 points and hands out six assists in the native Utahn’s first BYU-Utah rivalry game.
• BYU star Yoeli Childs makes his season debut after serving a nine-game NCAA suspension to start the year. Childs scores 29 points, but leaves in the second with an injury.
• Utah was down as many as 16 in the first half, and never led until taking an 87-86 lead at the 4:49 mark of overtime.
Jones’ turnaround jumper in the lane gave the Utes a 94-88 lead with 1:53 to play to play in overtime. BYU got the deficit down to four three times, but couldn’t climb all the way back. Jones hit four straight free throws inside the final 29 seconds to ice the game.
Jones ran the full gamut of a highly-charged rivalry game on Wednesday night, first letting an opportunity to play the hero escape him, then redeeming himself to push the game to overtime. With Utah trailing by one late in the second half, Jones missed a layup that would have given the Utes their first lead of the night. Instead, Alex Barcello made both ends of a 1-and-1 to extend the lead to three with 30.7 seconds to play.
“I was pretty mad for about 10 seconds, then he [Allen] told me to keep my head up and worry about the next play,” Jones said. “You stay in the moment and you don’t worry about the past.”
Down by three, Jones made up for the missed layup by banging a triple from the top of the key to tie the game at 86 with 18.8 seconds to play. Barcello got a decent look for the win down the other end, but he as falling away in the lane and the shot came up short, sending the game to overtime.
“I think he’s an absolute warrior,” Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said of his freshman. “No. 1, I think he understands the game real well, and often times, he makes the play that is presented to him. He doesn’t get sped up. He’s just a real solid point guard.
“He was a big part of it, as were a lot of the other guys, but he’s a real special kid.”
The fact Childs went out with an injury was compounded by the fact that senior guard TJ Haws fouled out. The fouls were a point of contention postgame as Dalton Nixon also fouled out as well. For the night, BYU committed 12 more fouls and attempted 14 less free throws.
“I thought the officiating was amazing,” BYU head coach Mark Pope said sarcastically. “That is probably the best crew that has ever set foot on the planet, and I’ll tell you this, a really brave and courageous crew.
“That crew, I would take them every single game. They’re amazing.”