Cougars end Utah’s 8-game streak

By Marco Villano, Staff Writer

PROVO8212;Things could get interesting for the Runnin’ Utes.

In addition to their eight-game streak, the Utes’ goal of locking up the Mountain West Conference title was snapped Saturday night after the Cougars’ strong second half led them to a 63-50 win in front of 20,120 fans at the Marriott Center.

BYU, which has the title in its sight as well, was helped by guard Jimmer Fredette, who caught fire in the second half, where he scored 14 of his 25 points.

“I give (Dave) Rose’s team credit,” said head coach Jim Boylen. “I thought they played very, very hard, very tough, very physical.”

The shooting display the Utes put on Saturday night was their worst all season. Utah shot 18-for-61 from the field, including a 5-for-25 effort from the 3-point line.

“I thought they broke our rhythm offensively and you got to credit them,” Boylen said.

Neither team shot well in the first half, with each shooting 30 times, but the Utes making just 10 shots for 33 percent and BYU making eight for 25 percent. The Utes took the halftime lead 28-26, but continued its off night in the second half. BYU, on the other hand, got it going with the support of its rowdy fans.

After a terrible first half in which he went 1-for-8, BYU forward Lee Cummard recovered by scoring six points in under three minutes. Four of those points were off two wide-open layups. BYU took off on an 18-4 run and took a 52-40 lead with seven minutes left.

“I just think they came out in the second half and dominated us,” said Utah’s Lawrence Borha. “We didn’t play with enough force and passion, so I don’t think it was anything they did, it was just us.”

BYU’s impenetrable zone defense said otherwise. Utah shot 26 percent from the field in the second half against 20 minutes of zone and couldn’t get anything going. Boylen attributed that to the fact that at first, his team was over-sharing the ball, then when he told them to take open looks, they didn’t share it enough.

Luke Nevill struggled against the packed-in zone. He finished the game with nine points, all scored in the first half, and 16 rebounds.

“It was tough to get a catch and when I did I felt like I was getting swarmed,” Nevill said. “It was tough to make a move in there, I felt quite crowded in the post.”

Utah’s turnovers helped the Cougars dominate the second half. Against UNLV on Wednesday, the Utes turned the ball over 18 times but still found a way to win. They weren’t so lucky against the Cougars, who were able to score 16 points off Utah’s 15 turnovers.

Utah guard Luka Drca had an off night. Trying to force things, he turned the ball over six times while putting up only four points.

“We’re about as good as Drca plays,” Boylen said. “He’s a big part of what we do. It’s safe to say it wasn’t one of his better games.”

Utah will have another chance Tuesday to capture the league title at The Pit in New Mexico. San Diego is also in the hunt for first place.

“We would have loved that win today, but we still have two more games and we just need one win,” said forward Shaun Green.

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Lennie Mahler

Head coach Jim Boylen expresses his frustration after calling a timeout with 59 seconds left and the Utes trailed BYU by 12 poitns. Utah jumped ahead in the first half, but fell behind in the second and lost 63-50 at the Marriott Center in Provo.