SALT LAKE CITY — By the time a Utah perimeter shot had shaken the glass, but left the rim untouched, and BYU’s lead had stretched to 17, Vivint Arena had started to quiet — even among BYU fans.
They knew they could relax. There would be no last-minute suspense. The noise did rise as the final minutes expired in the Cougars’ 74-59 win over Utah in the second annual Beehive Classic. There was good reason for BYU fans to celebrate. The Cougars extended their all-time series lead to 130-128. Much to the relief of Classic organizers, no major incidents occurred. The closest it came was when BYU’s Nick Emery actually diffused a situation.
The moment happened shortly after Emery entered the game early in the second half. Utah’s Charles Jones and BYU’s Dalton Nixon were scrambling to control the ball, twisting as they went down. Whistles blew. Emery, who was near enough to dive in — and would have, three years ago — instead called timeout.
That was it.
This game was about basketball, not fighting.
The Utes had no fight in them anyway.
“I thought the aggressor won the game,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said.
Thus continued the rivalry that began 258 games ago and paused only for World War II and Krystkowiak. They skipped the 2016 game after Emery threw a punch at a Utah player and Krystkowiak called foul, canceling the next season’s meeting. The teams reunited last year and Emery returned for this season, after taking time off for personal reasons and an NCAA suspension.
Even if Emery had wanted to, there was no call for punches this time. The Cougars knocked Utah out without a problem. While the Emery-Krystkowiak controversy has long since quieted, the future of Utah vs. BYU remains murky. It’s no secret that Krystkowiak is lukewarm about playing annually.
Seeing what happened on Saturday, it’s no surprise.
Asked if he favors maintaining the in-state Beehive Classic — which includes Utah vs. BYU — Krystkowiak said, “I’m not gonna … yeah, my opinion’s not really important. Unless somebody up the food chain here asks me my opinion, I’ll just stay neutral.”
Translation: #$%* no!
“Rivarly games, I do believe, are good,” Krystkowiak allowed.
BYU coach Dave Rose, though, foresees a rosy future.
“"I would like it to keep going,” Rose said. “I don’t know the ins and outs of it financially, but it probably has to be a financial gain for somebody in order to keep it going. There’s new administrators and new coaches, and we’ve got to figure out if everybody still wants to do it. For me, it’s great for the state and great for the fans. The players love it.”
Things don’t’ get easier for the Utes. They play No. 9-ranked Kentucky next week and No. 6 Nevada Dec. 29. Utah’s strength of schedule has hurt it in postseason consideration, so it has tried to improve. Winning is another problem. Utah has wins over Maine, Mississippi Valley State, Grand Canyon and Tulsa and losses to Minnesota, Hawaii, Northwestern and BYU.
Krystkowiak isn’t alone worrying about non-conference scheduling and success. Despite having eight teams with top-40 recruiting classes this year, the Pac-12 was 2-9 against Top 25 teams, going into this week, and 4-16 against power conference opponents.
“Everybody’s got issues conference-wise,” Krystkowiak said.
Utah opens Pac-12 competition Jan. 3 and 5 at Arizona State and Arizona.
“Based on games like this, it doesn’t seem like we’re ready at all,” Krystkowiak said. “We’ve got our hands full.”35 comments on this story
Saturday’s game started out just as it should have, close and intense. The question wasn’t whether the Utes could beat BYU, but whether they could beat Yoeli Childs. The Cougar forward scored BYU’s first 12 points and finished with 31 points, prompting Krystkowiak to say he delivered “some NBA-type moves.”
Just like the Emery drama, Utah’s offense lay dormant. He checked in during a first-half timeout and checked out six minutes later. There was only a faint smattering of boos when he handled the ball. He missed his only three shots and wasn’t factor.
Turned out neither were the Utes.
In-conference and out, they have issues to resolve.