PROVO — BYU's 72-59 home win over Utah Saturday was the typical case of two teams battling hard with one filing through a folder for successful offense, while the other struggled to be consistent.
BYU struggled offensively against the Utes, but gained the victory by riding a blistering transition game for multiple lay-ins off fastbreaks and cherry-pick plays. Utah's offense attacked BYU's zone in a myriad of ways with inconsistency while recording 18 turnovers.
In the end, BYU's ran past Utah's offense that attempted to run clock, go inside out and attack off the dribble.
The game also underscored the direction the two teams are heading just after the mid-season mark of Mountain West Conference play. Utah is on a painful losing skid, while the Cougars have won four in a row.
At times, BYU's fastbreak looked almost automatic with Charles Abouo scoring 8-of-11 shots from the field and Jackson Emery, who had six steals, consistently ended plays running at the rim.
I thought Utah coach Jim Boylen had a great game plan on both ends of the court. J.J. O’Brien worked hard on Jimmer Fredette and held him to 3-of-9 shooting in the first half (eight points). The Utes outshot BYU 46 percent to 38 percent in that stretch — and that was going a stinky 1 of 9 from beyond the arc.
After what the Utes had to deal with — coming in with a four-game losing streak — they looked mentally tough early in going toe-to-toe with the Cougars. If it weren't for Abouo and his 17 first-half points, Utah should have had a solid lead at intermission instead of trailing, 31-30.
Having said that, after shooting 69 percent in the second half at Air Force Wednesday night, the Cougars started this game missing easy shots — many of them layups right under the basket — only a chunk of that could be credited to Utah's 7-footers.
BYU was cold. Well, not on those half dozen cherry pick lay-ins.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org