In a game where a couple of good-shooting teams shot horribly from 3-point range, Saturday's Utah-BYU game basically came down to a couple of wide-open 3-pointers.
The Cougars made theirs and the Utes didn't, and the result was a hard-fought 55-52 BYU victory Saturday afternoon before 14,224 at the Huntsman Center.
For BYU, it was quite a comeback from the 70-41 thrashing at UNLV earlier in the week and raised the Cougars' overall record to 13-5 and 2-1 in Mountain West Conference play. Meanwhile, the Utes suffered their second straight loss and dropped to 1-2 in MWC play and 10-6 overall.
Although there was a lot of action in the final two minutes, the game was basically decided on a pair of 3-point shots just before that.
The game was tied 50-50 with less than three minutes to play when Utah's Tyler Kepkay was left wide open in the right corner. However, his shot caromed off the back of the rim.
Then at the other end, off an inbounds play, BYU's Sam Burgess was left wide open in the opposite right corner, and he drained his shot to put the Cougars up for good at 53-50.
"That one felt good," Kepkay said of his try. "It just hit the back of the rim. It was right on line. Maybe a little too much adrenaline on that one."
Burgess' trey was just one of three the Cougars made all day in 17 attempts. He said shooters "have a short memory" so he wasn't reluctant to fire up the key shot.
"That was actually a play designed for Lee (Cummard) to get a jumper, but they sucked down on Lee and left me open," Burgess said. "You can't get more open than that. As rough as it was from the 3-point line tonight, we got it done."
"Sam was wide open and buried it, and that was a big lift for us," said BYU coach Dave Rose.
Burgess's 3-pointer helped raise the Cougars to 17.6 percent on the day, which was just behind Utah's 21.4 percent from 3-point range.
The Utes still had a couple of chances to win the game in the final 61 seconds.
After Kepkay made his only basket of the game to cut the lead to one, 53-52, with 1:41 left, Luka Drca stole the ball from Cummard and was fouled at the 1:01 mark. After a timeout, Drca's free throw rimmed out.
"One-and-one with one of my best players, Luka Drca ... from there, a million times in a row he's going to make them," said coach Jim Boylen. "But he didn't make them. We make our free throws, we win the game second game in a row."
The Utes also had a chance when they got the ball back with 33 seconds left after a BYU miss and called timeout, still down one point.
Johnnie Bryant held the ball near midcourt for a few seconds before Boylen waved for him to start a play with 18 seconds left. Bryant went left and handed the ball off to Kepkay, who was forced out high with less than 10 seconds left. He drove down the right side and threw up an off-balance, running jumper from 10 feet that missed everything and went over the basket.
Cummard grabbed the errant shot and was fouled, making two free throws with 3 seconds left, and Kepkay's desperation 3-point try missed at the buzzer.
Afterwards, Boylen blamed himself for the play call.
"We wanted to take a little time and try to get into our high stack and try to drive the ball and make a play," he said. "It took a little longer than I wanted it to. Looking back on it, it wasn't the right play. I'm going to eat that one and move on."
Cummard led all scorers with 19 points and he also led his team with 9 rebounds and 2 steals. Burgess added 12 points, while Jimmer Fredette had 8 off the bench.
"Cummard's a big-time player," said Boylen. "He's a tough matchup for us, and I thought he was the difference in the game. We tried to do a good job on him, but he hurt us."
BYU's leading scorer, Trent Plaisted, struggled for the second straight game, finishing with 6 points on 2-of-11 shooting.
Utah was led by Lawrence Borha's 12 points and Luke Nevill, who had 11 points, 9 rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.
BYU led 26-23 at halftime before Utah came out fast to grab a 30-27 lead. However, the Cougars regained the lead and pushed it to 48-41 with under eight minutes left before the Utes fought back to tie it.
Before the game, Boylen said he was most worried about BYU's 3-point shooting and offensive rebounding. The 3-point shooting didn't hurt, but the Cougars got 12 offensive boards and outrebounded Utah 42-36.
"Our defense is getting better and better," said Boylen. "But we've got to get better offensively. We had our chances to win the game. We're going to move on and get better."
"It was a great win for us," said Rose. "We had our backs to the wall in a couple of ways. It was almost kind of a desperation situation."The Utes head back out on the road for a game Tuesday night in Albuquerque, N.M., against New Mexico, while the Cougars play host to San Diego State on Wednesday night.
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