BYU outlasts Utah State 68-64 in Beehive Classic thriller at Vivint Arena

Utah State's Justin Bean, left, and Sam Merrill (5) defend against BYU forward Kolby Lee (40) in the first half during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

In the second game of the third and final installment of the Beehive Classic, BYU and Utah State gave fans something to remember the in-state event by — a nail-bitting, hair-pulling, stressful rivalry game that had no clear winner until the final seconds.

But at the end of it all, BYU topped a competitive USU squad 68-64 in front of 10,291 fans at Vivint Smart Home Arena on Saturday. Overall, the Beehive Classic drew out 14,383 people — the largest attendance record of the event’s three-year stint.

“It's a great way for the Beehive Classic to shut it down,” BYU coach Mark Pope said. “I'm really happy for basketball in the state of Utah. I mean, there's good teams and there's good spirit here and there's good juice. Basketball in this state is great. I mean, in a year we're going to have seven Division I basketball teams in the state. So, this was a special way to finish it up.”

Up 65-64, Dalton Nixon and Alex Barcello stepped it up in the last minute of the game to seal the BYU win.

While Nixon only finished with two points, the senior blocked Utah State's Justin Bean's layup to prevent the Aggies from getting the lead late in the game. While USU's Neemias Queta got the offensive rebound, he missed a layup that was recovered by BYU's Jake Toolson.

After a BYU timeout, Barcello made a corner 3-pointer to buff up the Cougars' score with 27 seconds left. And it turned out that was all that was needed.

“Unbelievable,” Barcello said of his shot. “You know, I didn't start off the game too hot, but I love my guys and I love my team and coaching staff for it. They picked me up and told me to trust it … no guy came out on me, so I just shot the shot knowing my teammates believed in me and it went in. Luckily, we won the game.”

Barcello, who didn’t score in the first half, finished with seven points. And he wasn’t the only one who had a slow start. Yoeli Childs was held to four points in the first half, yet the senior forward finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds for his third consecutive double-double.

But that's nothing new for the 6-foot-8 forward.

“The thing teams have been trying to do is take me away in the post and double-team and do that type of deal, but I'm never going to get frustrated with it because I'm just going to kick it out and it's going to be one more pass and we're going to get wide-open shots,” Childs said. “And then once teams get frustrated and a coach is yelling at them 'we can't give up any more threes,' then I'm more open in the paint. So, it's a great balance and I just love playing with these guys.”

Childs' strong second-half performance also balanced out TJ Haws surging first half.

Haws led the team with 13 points in the first half, but was only able to score once in the second half on a 3-pointer with less than four minutes left in the game.

Childs said anyone on the roster is always ready to step up when someone else may be struggling with their shots.

“That’s the cool thing about this team — we never have a single guy on the court that you can’t disrespect, you can’t play off him, you can’t be a ‘help guy,’ ” Childs said. “That’s what makes us special. That’s how NBA teams are.”

The Cougars came in having won their last two games by 33 points after falling to Utah 102-95 in overtime more than a week ago. The Aggies, who were sitting just out of the AP Top 25, had previously only lost once this season.

The Jazz's home court ended up being the perfect atmosphere for the heated in-state rivalry game.

“It was awesome because the Utah State fans are beautifully insane and our fans are so incredibly loyal and great,” Pope said. “And it’s a big-time game — it’s two top-50 teams playing right here in Vivint. That doesn’t happen all the time. … It was a perfect atmosphere for this game.”