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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Utah Men’s Basketball Upsets Unbeaten BYU to Win the Holy War

For the first time since 2015, the Runnin’ Utes beat the BYU Cougars to claim their most impressive victory thus far in the season.
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Xiangyao Tang
Utah center Keba Keita (13) versus the BYU Cougars at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

The Utah men’s basketball team took down the undefeated BYU Cougars on Saturday for the first time since 2015, coming into the game as underdogs despite playing at home in front of a sold-out Huntsman crowd. Utah was dominant offensively and defensively in the first half but struggled to find an offensive flow in the second half, putting up just 28 points. The defensive pressure and energy were the difference-makers in this one, as Utah was able to get timely stops down the stretch and would eventually come away with a massive 73-69 win.

First Half

The first half was all Utah, as they went into halftime with a commanding 45-31 lead. Cole Bajema sparked the Ute offense early, notching seven quick points on an efficient 3-3 shooting. Senior guard Gabe Madsen continued his hot shooting, knocking down three early three-pointers to open up a 20-10 advantage for the Utes. Branden Carlson showed no signs of injury fatigue after missing Tuesday night’s game against Southern Utah. Carlson continued to play at an all-American level throughout the first half, recording 13 points to lead all scorers and dominating the defensive glass, grabbing six hard-fought rebounds. Rollie Worster‘s playmaking ability was on full display once again as he dismantled the Cougar defense, dishing out seven assists while only recording one turnover through the first 20 minutes. Keba Keita and Hunter Erickson provided a spark off the bench, each pouring in six points, including a three from Erickson to extend the lead to 40-29 late in the first half.

Defensively, Utah was dominant from the opening tip, holding the Cougars to just 36% shooting from the field in the first half. The ball pressure on the Cougar guards and Utah’s height inside was too much for BYU to handle as they struggled to find an offensive flow through the majority of the first 20 minutes. Utah ran full man-to-man defense in the first half and was able to force the Cougars into uncomfortable situations seemingly every possession. The Utes would need to come out with the same defensive energy in the second half if they wanted to pull off the historic upset.

Second Half

It was a tale of two halves for the Utes, as they seemingly could not miss in the first 20 minutes. Coming out of the locker room, Utah was ice cold from the field and struggled to get anything going against a stout BYU zone defense. Despite the offensive struggles, Utah continued to play physical, tenacious defense and that ended up being the deciding factor at the end of this one.

Madsen was the hero for Utah, as he knocked down a step back three late in the shot clock to give Utah a 71-64 advantage with 1:01 left to go in the game. Madsen came in clutch shot after shot throughout this game to propel the Utah offense, so it was very fitting that he was able to bury the shot that sent the Cougars back to Provo with their first loss of the season.

The Utah defense was the most impressive aspect of this win, holding a very high-powered BYU offense to under 70 points for the first time this season. The Cougars shot almost 50% as a team on the year but were held to just 36% from the field and 23% from three in this physical matchup. Every player that saw the floor was locked in defensively, which was the icing on the cake to the most impressive win so far this year for the Utes.

Utes Stuffing the Stat Sheet

Madsen was the leading scorer for the Utes tonight, as he scored 17 points on an impressive 5-9 from three-point range. Madsen was locked in offensively all game and proved to be too much for the BYU defense to contain. Carlson recorded 15 points and 8 rebounds for Utah as he continued to prove that he is one of the best centers in the entire country. Despite struggles from the field, Worster stuffed the box score with seven points, eight assists and six rebounds as he controlled the Ute offense for the majority of the game. Keita continued to create havoc for Utah, putting up 10 points, six rebounds, and a couple thunderous dunks that electrified the Utah crowd.

What’s Next for the Utes?

Utah will take on Utah Valley next Saturday, Dec. 16, at the Huntsman Center at 2:00 p.m. MST. Utah looks to defend their undefeated home record in this one as they prepare for upcoming Pac-12 conference play.

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About the Contributors
Kyle Garrison, Sports Writer
Kyle garrison grew up in Spring Lake, Michigan. He moved to Salt Lake City to pursue a degree in communications with an emphasis in journalism. Kyle plans on pursuing broadcast journalism as a career once graduating from the University of Utah. Kyle started with the Chronicle this fall and has loved every minute of working with the team.
Xiangyao Tang, Photo Director
Axe is a photographer and the photo director of the Daily Utah Chronicle. He is from China and is a senior majoring in computer science and minoring in digital photography. Axe joined the Chronicle in August of 2021. In addition to his position at the Chrony, he is also a photo intern for University of Utah Athletics. When he's not writing code, you will find him rock climbing, camping, skiing or hiking with his camera.
Mary Allen, Design Director
(she/her) Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Mary is thrilled to be here at the University of Utah studying graphic design. She feels very lucky to get to rub shoulders with the talented people that make up the team here at the Chronicle and is learning a lot from them every day. Other than making things look cute, Mary’s passions include music, pickleball, Diet Coke, wildlife protection, and the Boston Red Sox.

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