Big buckets equal big win for Runnin’ Utes

Clutch shots from the Runnin’ Utes, and a lack thereof from BYU, allowed Utah to walk out winners on Wednesday night to the tune of a 79-60 rout in the Huntsman Center.

The Utes shot 52.1 percent from the field on the evening compared to the Cougars’ 30 percent, as only one BYU player managed to hit even half of his shots from the field.

“This is at least a good step in the right direction,” Ute coach Ray Giacoletti said. “When you give that kind of effort, you can lay down at night and feel good about it.”

After a lackluster opening to the game that saw both teams turn over the ball, miss easy shots and Ute forward Bryant Markson nearly air-ball a wide-open dunk, the Utes found themselves trailing 15-12, thanks to Cougars Trent Plaisted and Brock Reichner combining for 11 early points.

But that was the last time BYU tasted a lead.

Ute freshman Shaun Green nailed a three-pointer and was quickly followed by Johnnie Bryant with a deep trey of his own. The quick barrage turned into a flurry, as the Utes went on an 11-0 run, taking a 23-15 run with 9:45 left in the half.

“We had the lead and we were playing pretty well,” Reichner said. “But they started hitting those big shots, those big threes, and that kind of gave them the momentum.”

It would go from bad to worse for the Cougars, who found themselves on the short end of a 24-6 run when it was all said and done, as the Utes led 33-19 with four minutes left, and 39-24 at halftime. BYU missed 12-of-14 shots from the field after the 15-12 lead, a span of 12:23.

“They’re all great shooters,” Ute guard Chris Grant said. “Reichner knocked a bunch down, but we really focused on not giving them any open looks. I think we did a pretty good job of that.”

It was the bunch that Reichner did manage to knock down that got BYU somewhat back in the game in the second half.

The senior guard hit four three-pointers in the first 10:30 of the second half, helping eventually cut the lead down to nine. But with the Utes clinging to a 53-44 lead, BYU made several mistakes that prevented them from making more headway.

On successive possessions, BYU center Derek Dawes traveled, Reichner committed a driving offensive foul and bad communication led to an errant pass out of bounds. By the time the Cougars could start getting things going again, the Utes had snapped out of their funk, with Green and Grant nailing back-to-back threes to put the game out of reach for good.

“They did a good job of limiting our transition and making us work for every opportunity we had,” Cougar center Trent Plaisted said. “They just executed their game plan better than we did.”

Reichner led the Cougars with 21 points, tying a career high with six 3-pointers. Plaisted, who came into the game as BYU’s leading scorer at 13.5 per game, finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds. For most of the night, Plaisted squared off against fellow freshman Luke Nevill, who finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

“It was a pretty good battle between the two big kids,” Giacoletti said. “Pretty even numbers between those two.”

It was the Utes’ 12th win in a row over BYU at the Huntsman Center, in front of a season-high crowd of 12,213. The Utes now lead the all-time series 123-118.

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