PROVO BYU opened all the stops for Saturday night's women's basketball game against instate rival Utah, with the trappings including opening the turnstiles to break the program's home-attendance record, unfurling the banner commemorating last year's regular-season conference championship, hosting an A-list of former Cougar coaches and players at courtside, rolling out not one but two bands, and offering all sorts of giveaways.
And then bam! all those good feelings came to a screeching halt once the game began.
The visiting Utes played Marriott Center party spoilers by racing out to a 22-0 start en route to an 80-49 victory, the ninth consecutive win for Utah, now 14-3 overall and 3-0 in the Mountain West Conference.
BYU (8-7, 2-1 MWC) did break the attendance record at 6,206, but it was the Utes who broke the Cougars' collective backs and hearts in the 31-point rout.
Ute guard Leilani Mitchell led all scorers with 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting, while teammate Morgan Warburton added 16 points on an off-shooting night and Katie King another 10.
Mallary Carling shook off a slow start to log 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting including 5-of-9 behind the arc for BYU's only double-digit performance.
Utah head coach Elaine Elliott repeatedly acknowledged her players' "interest" as in "very prepared and interested in the game."
Interest? Because of the crowd, the rivalry and the battle between two league unbeatens?
"All that," Elliott said. "That's what is behind any competitor, as in 'What's your interest tonight?' there's a lot of players who come out who are not interested in playing."
Cougar counterpart Jeff Judkins offered no excuses:
"Utah outplayed us in every single aspect of the game," he said. "Utah seems to do that to you they're always ready to play."
Ironically, Utah started the game with a turnover and a missed shot in the first 48 seconds. However, BYU appeared to be tepid offensively and the onslaught began and snowballed.
A jumper by King. A layup by Jessica Perry. A layup by Mitchell. Two free throws by Warburton. A jumper by Kalee Whipple. A jumper by King, a jumper by Warburton, a jumper by Whipple. A jumper by Halie Sawyer. A fast-break layup by Whipple. A jumper by Mitchell.
Eight minutes in, and Utah enjoyed its 22-0 lead on torrid near-70 percent shooting before the Cougars put up any points, a trey by reserve Coriann Wood at the 11:27 mark.
"They were on fire," said Carling of the Utes.
And it only got worse, as Utah eventually settled for a 46-20 lead at the half.
Could Utah have played a better first half?
"You always want to do better," Elliott said. "But that first half was very, very good."
Mitchell nearly outscored BYU herself in the opening half 15 points while flustering a host of assigned BYU defenders. Warburton tallied nine in the half as Utah shot 13-of-19 from the floor just under 60 percent.
Carling was BYU's sole first-half bright spot, logging nine points on 4-of-7 shooting, while the rest of the team mustered 21 percent (4-of-19) and committed 10 turnovers.Utah squelched any second-half Cougar comeback hope with several early 3-pointers, as BYU never got closer than the 26-point halftime deficit.
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