It’s going to be a battle. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and there will be a lot of people there. We just need to be ready right from the start. They came out really tough last year. —TJ Haws
OREM — There are only a handful of players on BYU’s roster who suited up for the Cougars last year, but they certainly haven’t forgotten what happened the last time they faced Utah Valley University.
The Wolverines drilled 18 3-pointers and stunned the Cougars at the Marriott Center, 114-101, on Nov. 26, 2016. It marked UVU’s first victory against BYU in three all-time meetings, and it stands as one of the biggest wins in the program's history.
The 114 points were the most points ever scored by a Cougar opponent in the Marriott Center, while the 18 triples are the most scored there by a team.
BYU sophomore TJ Haws remembers that painful setback. And, as the Cougars get set to visit UVU Wednesday (7 p.m. MST, BYUtv), he said practices have been more spirited this week.
“We’re just really excited to play these guys again,” Haws said. “Taking that loss last year and having that remind us every day how it felt has been a huge motivation and a huge help.”
Haws said he hasn’t thought much about that defeat until this week. But now, “it’s on the forefront of my mind,” he added.
A sellout crowd is expected for BYU’s first trip to the UCCU Center to take on the Wolverines, a game labeled as the “Crosstown Clash.”
“It’s going to be a battle. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and there will be a lot of people there,” Haws said. “We just need to be ready right from the start. They came out really tough last year.”
Nick Wagner, Deseret News
BYU (4-2) at Utah Valley University (4-2)
Wednesday, 7 p.m. MST, UCCU Center
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
BYU forward Luke Worthington, who was serving an LDS mission last year at this time, is looking forward to squaring off against UVU coach Mark Pope, a former member of the Cougar coaching staff.
“I’m excited to see him. It’s been a while. He’s a great guy. It’s going to be interesting playing against him," Worthington said. "When I left (on a mission), he was still one of our assistant coaches.”
Meanwhile, UVU’s roster features three BYU transfers — guards Jake Toolson and Cory Calvert and center Isaac Neilson. In last year’s game, Neilson poured in a game-high 26 points.
“I’m excited to go up against them,” Worthington said. “We’re not going to worry too much about who’s over there or who we know. There’s going to be a lot of emotions for some guys over there.”
When they were together at BYU a few years ago, Worthington and Toolson were roommates.
“That’s why I think it will be very competitive,” Worthington said. “There will be a lot of passion in this game. More than anything, we’re going to play our game and take care of business.”
BYU coach Dave Rose is impressed with what Pope has accomplished in his two-plus seasons at the helm of UVU’s program.
“I’m happy for Mark. He’s a very, very hard worker,” Rose said. “You can see his hard work is paying off in a lot of different ways.”
This year’s UVU squad is led by 7-foot center Akolda Manyang, who averages 17 points and nine rebounds per game. Toolson also starts for the Wolverines, and he averages 12.2 points per game.
Wednesday’s game tips off a stretch of in-state games for BYU. The Cougars travel to Utah State Saturday, and there are contests against Weber State and Utah coming up.
Rose enjoys these in-state tilts, including the one against UVU.
“This reminds me of when I was at Houston used to play Rice. Rice was a 10-minute bus ride. This is a 10-minute bus ride if you get the lights right,” Rose quipped. “It’s great for the community. Mark’s got a really competitive team this year, and he’s got a chance to really make some noise in his conference. I’m excited for the Valley and for the game.”
BYU is coming off a pair of games in Brooklyn, New York, including last Saturday’s dramatic 68-66 victory over UMass. The Cougars rallied from a 12-point deficit as forward Yoeli Childs scored 19 points and pulled down 11 rebounds.
The week before, BYU won at Princeton in Princeton, New Jersey.
“I really enjoy these (in-state) games simply because we don’t have to fly 3,000 miles to play them,” Rose said. “The last three games out of our building, we’ve put a lot of miles on to get there and get back. The travel will be easier.”