PROVO One way or another, it figured to be a historic night at the Marriott Center.
Either BYU was going to extend its homecourt winning streak, and its overall winning streak, or Utah was going to snap both simultaneously before a crowd of 19,460.
In the end, the Cougars escaped with a 67-59 victory over the Utes on Wednesday night to set a new school record for consecutive victories at home with 45 straight, earning their ninth straight win in the process. But to BYU, that wasn't what really mattered.
"All I know," said forward Jonathan Tavernari, "is we beat Utah."
Tavernari scored a game-high 20 points, including five of the Cougars' final seven in the last 65 seconds of the contest. His jumper from the free-throw line elbow with just over one minute remaining gave BYU a 62-57 edge. Later, he added three free throws to seal the victory.
Unlike last Saturday's rout of UNLV, the win didn't come easily.
"We always expect a game like that with Utah," said senior guard Sam Burgess. "We made enough plays to win. That shows the character of this team, that we know how to win close games."
"It was two good teams, a lot of players really competing," said BYU coach Dave Rose. "We made a couple of more plays at the end. It was fun to be a part of. It was a great college basketball game. Every shot was contested, every rebound was contested, every pass was contested."
BYU's biggest lead of the game eight points came with 23 seconds remaining.
For Utah, Johnnie Bryant led the way with 15 points, including three 3-pointers. Lawrence Borha scored 12 and Luke Nevill chipped in 11.
"My team battled out there tonight, and I am very proud of my guys," said Ute coach Jim Boylen. "BYU is a good team and they have a great coach. They made the plays that they needed to win."
Cougar guard Lee Cummard turned in a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds while center Trent Plaisted had nine points. Freshman Jimmer Fredette enjoyed one of the best games of his young collegiate career, scoring 14 points in 22 minutes of play.
Through most of the game, the Cougars and Utes pretty much traded baskets. BYU led almost the entire first half, but Utah hung close. Tavernari scored nine of BYU's first 13 points, while Bryant came off the bench to nail two 3-pointers for Utah. A putback by Ute Luka Drca tied the game at 24-all with a little more than two minutes remaining in the half.
Moments later, BYU recorded a key four-point play when Tavernari drained a 3-pointer while a foul was called under the basket on Bryant, who shoved Cummard. Cummard hit one of two free throws to give the Cougars a 28-24 edge.
Lawrence Bohra scored to cut the Ute deficit to 28-26, but BYU finished the half by scoring five unanswered points on two free throws by Cummard and Jimmer Fredette's 3-pointer with 45.8 ticks left on the clock. Collinsworth squandered an opportunity to extend the Cougar lead, but missed two free throws with 22.3 seconds remaining. Still, BYU was staked to a 33-26 advantage at halftime its largest lead of the half.
The Utes continued to keep things close in the second half. Drca's 3- pointer at the 12 minute mark pulled Utah to within one, 39-38. But the Cougars answered with back-to-back 3-pointers from Fredette and Tavernari.But Utah refused to go away quietly. Bryant nailed a 3-pointer with 5:20 left to make it 54-53 for the Cougars. But BYU, which went to the free throw line 32 times compared to just 10 for Utah, hit 9- of-10 from the charity stripe in the final four minutes.