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BYU, USU Coaches Meet On Hardwood After Arizona Street Race

Photos: Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY – BYU and Utah State meet on Saturday night in the Beehive Classic in a game that will feature two of the top young coaches in college basketball.

Utah State’s Craig Smith and BYU’s Mark Pope have energized both programs with their energy and relentless approaches. The two also like to street race while out on recruiting trips.

Back in June, Pope and Smith were on the recruiting trail down in the state of Arizona. Smith saw Pope while driving. When he approached Pope’s vehicle, he rolled down his window and said, “let’s race.”

Pope laughingly told the story of racing Smith down in Arizona to KSL NewsRadio’s Cougar Sports Saturday crew.

“We’re both leaving the gym and we know we’re going to the same gym – we’re following the same [recruits] -. I think coach [Smith] pulled up and rolled down his window really slowly and I’m looking all the way through the passenger window and he looks at me, ‘let’s race!’ So of course, I’m in man! Let’s go!

“So I jumped in my car and I’m pretty sure it was semilegal, maybe, I don’t know, and we had at it. We were five miles away from the gym and there was some real jockeying. I can drive and Coach Smith can drive. We may not be pretty guys, but we can drive.”

Who won this compelling race? Pope said out of respect for Coach Smith not saying who won, he wouldn’t say either. But he did share the details of the dramatic finish.

“So the one thing I can tell you is that we were both in a full sweat, both showing off all of our skills, both praying we don’t get arrested and feeling like man-sized men,” said Pope. “But what happened was, we made the last turn and raced into this complex and then came to a dead-end and both of us realized we had made the wrong turn. (laughs) So that drained all the testosterone and all the manhood; and it was just like ah man, I thought we were killing it and then we were both lost.”

A big in-state matchup with star power on the floor 

The two might have been lost while driving in the streets in Arizona, but they are not lost in leading their respective basketball programs. BYU comes into the Beehive Classic with a record of 8-4 while Utah State is barely outside the Top 25 with a 9-1 record.

BYU has won the last seven in the rivalry and 10 of the last 12 meetings. But this looks to be the best and most evenly matched game in a while because of the talent on both teams.

Utah State is led by Sam Merrill, Justin Bean, and Neemias Queta while BYU’s go-to guys are Yoeli Childs, Jake Toolson, and TJ Haws. Six guys that are sure to give us a compelling race like their head coaches did on the recruiting trail.

Tip-off for BYU and Utah State is at 6 p.m. in the final Beehive Classic played at the Vivint Smarthome Arena. You can listen to the game on KSL NewsRadio with coverage beginning at 5 p.m. (MT).

BYU vs. Utah State

Beehive Classic

Tip: 6 p.m.


Radio: KSL NewsRadio 102.7 FM, 1160 AM

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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