The Cougars handled Santa Clara easily on Thursday with a balanced effort led by Tyler Haws (9-of-12 shooting) while versus the Dons on Saturday they pulled the game out in the last few minutes led by Matt Carlino and Eric Mika. In the two games, BYU out-rebounded its opponents by an astounding combined margin of 97-61.
The Cougars now sit alone at second place in the West Coast Conference and are surprisingly but clearly back in the NCAA Tournament picture.
Meanwhile, up north the Utes pounded the two Washington Pac-12 schools by a combined 27 points. The Utes are tied for seventh in the conference but are only two games behind third-place Arizona State.
Sophomore guard Brandon Taylor has seemingly emerged as the No. 3 guy for the Utes in support of Jordan Loveridge and Delon Wright. Taylor racked up 36 points, seven assists and 11 rebounds on 22 shot attempts in the two games last week.
After the two victories, the Utes have an impressive ESPN BPI ranking of No. 38, nine spots higher than the Cougars, which would seem to put them within striking distance of the NCAA Tournament bubble.
Elsewhere in men’ basketball, the Weber State Wildcats had a good week with two home wins and now lead the Big Sky Conference by three full games over a four-pack of teams. The Aggies also had a nice week, bouncing back from a five-game losing streak with two home wins over Nevada and Boise State. The WAC-leading Utah Valley Wolverines had just one game, a road victory over second-place Grand Canyon. Yes, there is a school called Grand Canyon in the WAC now.
On the women’s side, BYU climbed into second place in the WCC with road wins over Santa Clara and San Francisco. The Cougars now sit at 9-4 in conference and 19-5 overall. The Utes got worked over by Oregon and are 11th in the Pac-12 with a 3-8 record. The Aggie women are at 4-7, good for eighth in the MWC. Utah Valley is 1-8 in the WAC and Weber State is 0-12 in the Big Sky.
In other sports, the fourth-ranked Utah women’s gymnastics team beat No. 13 Arizona on Friday, while BYU’s fourth-ranked men’s volleyball team beat Cal Baptist on Monday.
For those interested in hockey, the Utah Grizzlies have been one of the hottest teams in the ECHL and goaltender Aaron Dell was named Goaltender of the Month in January. The team is on the road until Feb. 17.
In high school basketball, the state of Utah has three boys teams ranked in the top 50 of the country by Max Preps. Lone Peak, which barely defeated American Fork last week, is first in the state and No. 30 in the country; while Bountiful and Alta, the other top two teams in the state, are also in the top 50 nationally.
Local team of the week: BYU men’s basketball team.
For the second straight week, the Cougars are the team of the week after going 2-0. While the Jazz beat the Heat, they also got blown out at home by the Raptors and on the road versus the Mavericks. While the Utes, Aggies and Wildcats also went 2-0, BYU had the most to lose and knocked off San Francisco, which at the time was the second-place team in the WCC.
Local athlete of the week: Sage Kotsenburg, Olympic snowboarder.
Kotsenburg, from Park City, won the first gold medal of the Sochi Winter Olympics in the men’s slopestyle snowboarding competition.
Local sports moment of the week: Trey Burke’s 19-foot jumper with 24 seconds left versus Miami.
With the shot clock running out and the Jazz up just two after a Heat rally, Trey Burke stepped into a contested 19-foot jumper that he drained with 24 seconds left to help seal the deal versus the two-time defending champs. This came after two clutch 3-pointers by Marvin Williams, two smooth free throws from Derrick Favors and a jumper from Richard Jefferson kept the Jazz in front in the final minutes.
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