Utah Men’s Basketball Suffers First Loss of the Season against BYU

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Jack Gambassi

(Photo by Jack Gambassi)

By Ethan Pearce, Assistant Sports Editor

 

The University of Utah men’s basketball team suffered their first loss of the season on Saturday night against the 18th-ranked BYU Cougars. Utah is now 5-1 before seeing their first Pac-12 opponent of the season next week.

First Half

Utah jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, but the Cougars answered right back with a 6-0 run. It was a back and forth contest, with Utah staying in front thanks to some hot three-point shooting. Dusan Mahorcic went down with an apparent knee injury soon after he checked in, and was in some obvious pain. Utah, already down Marco Anthony, Gabe Madsen and Bostyn Holt, was suddenly very thin for the evening.

The rest of the first half was a lot of back and forth basketball. Both teams went through a few cold stretches. Utah’s rebounding began to struggle a bit with Mahorcic out of the game, but they cleaned it up as the half went along.

Lazar Stefanovic was particularly impressive during his minutes, hitting a couple jumpers to go with a nice steal and breakaway dunk. 

Utah took a lead into halftime, 29-27. The first half went by fairly quickly, with only six fouls called for both teams combined. The defense was great for Utah, but the rebounding struggles led to second and third chances for BYU. The Cougars were only 1-9 from three in the first half.

The crowd was easily the rowdiest it’s been all season, with the upper bowl finally open and enough fans to mostly fill the arena. The early undefeated start and coaching change have this program feeling as much juice as it has in a long time. 

Second Half

The second half began with the teams trading buckets again. The Huntsman Center got louder and louder as the night went on. BYU had a sizable amount of fans that made the trip up from Provo.

Utah’s offense stagnated a bit about halfway through the second half. That’s when the Cougars took an eight-point lead on a 9-0 run, their biggest lead of the night to that point, forcing a timeout from head coach Craig Smith. 

The Cougars started to heat up from three, and that caused the lead to continue to grow.  It was 57-46 with about seven minutes remaining in the game.

David Jenkins Jr., who had a rough first half, began to heat up and that kept the Utes in the game. He hit a three and was fouled on another one for six quick points. 

The Utes had a few open looks down the stretch, but struggled to convert. They had a chance to take control of this game, but ultimately they ran out of gas with a short rotation due to injury. Utah failed to get a rebound with about 45 seconds left, giving the Cougars a fresh shot clock and forcing the Utes to foul. Out of time, they couldn’t complete the comeback, suffering their first loss of the season, 75-64, after a lot of late free throws to pad BYU’s lead.

“I thought we had our chances,” Smith said. “I thought our guys fought like crazy. They left everything they had on the floor … Proud of our effort.”

Up Next

Utah will hit the road to face No. 24 USC on Wednesday night. It will be their second straight game against a top-25 opponent, and their first Pac-12 game of the year. Utah will then play California at home next Sunday before resuming the non-conference schedule.

There’s no shame in losing to a top-20 team in the country, especially missing as many players as Utah was. Smith was doubtful about Anthony’s status for Wednesday, and he had no report on the severity of Mahorcic’s injury. Given how it looked, the chance he is back in short order is pretty low. Madsen will likely return soon, but that still leaves Utah without two of their best rebounders. There will need to be a lot of adjustments to fix some of the issues that came up tonight, but the program is trending in a positive direction and the fan turnout tonight proved that.

“Great energy in the Huntsman Center tonight,” Smith said. “Fans impact winning … it was awesome to feel that and be a part of it. Obviously we wanted to be on the other end of the coin in the win and loss column, but we’re gonna keep building this thing, and we’re gonna roll our sleeves up and work our hands to the bone to make this thing happen at the University of Utah.”

 

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