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No. 18 BYU Travels To Utah Seeking First Win At Huntsman Center Since 2011

Nov 27, 2021, 3:03 AM
BYU Basketball - Mark Pope - Caleb Lohner...
Brigham Young Cougars head coach Mark Pope talks with Brigham Young Cougars forward Caleb Lohner (33) during a timeout as BYU and Texas Southern play an NCAA basketball game at the Marriott Center in Provo on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021. BYU won 81-64. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)
(Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY – For the first time during the 2021-22 BYU Basketball season, the Cougars will play in a true road game on Saturday night.

The opponent needs no introduction, as it is a rivalry matchup featuring two undefeated teams. BYU at 5-0 gets set to face Utah, who also comes in at 5-0, at the Jon M. Huntsman Center (7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network Mountain) on Saturday night.

During the Mark Pope era, BYU basketball is 1-1 against the rival Utes, with the lone loss coming at the Huntsman Center two years ago. That loss to Utah is the only game in Mark Pope’s tenure at BYU so far that has come against a sub-100 KenPom team.

But that highlights the Cougs recent struggles at the Huntsman Center. BYU hasn’t won at the Huntsman since Utah’s first year as a member of the Pac-12 Conference back in 2011-12. That BYU victory came against a six-win Utah team.

So to keep up their undefeated season, they’ll have to get through a Utah team that is playing with a lot of confidence in the first year of head coach Craig Smith.

The Utes are fresh off of their first MTE title since 2008, winning the Sunshine Classic down in Daytona Beach. Utah defeated Boston College from the ACC and Tulsa from the AAC to take home the title.

Utah’s 5-0 start has included five victories against teams rated 130 or lower in the KenPom ratings, giving them the 327th rated strength of schedule to date. BYU has wins over No. 42 San Diego State and No. 55 Oregon. So the strength of BYU’s 5-0 record appears to be stronger than the Utes. But this is a rivalry, and anything can happen in these games.

“It’s going to be everything you want in an in-state game,” said BYU coach Mark Pope, who’s coaching in his 65th game with the Cougars. “Craig’s a great coach. They have a great team, a really veteran team. This is a big game.”

No. 18 BYU at Utah

Tip: 7:30 p.m. (MT)

Location: Huntsman Center; Salt Lake City

TV: Pac-12 Network Mountain

Radio: 107.9

Series: BYU leads 132-129

Last Meeting: 2020 – BYU 82, Utah 64 in Provo

Spotlight: BYU’s backcourt

The senior guard tandem of Alex Barcello and Te’Jon Lucas will need to have a big game for BYU to pull off the rivalry victory. Barcello had an uncharacteristic poor shooting performance in the Cougars win on Wednesday against Texas Southern. Still, through five games, Barcello is averaging 18 points, is still shooting 60% from the field, 51% from three, and 91% at the foul line.

Barcello is the star power of BYU’s team, but the man that makes the Cougars’ offense go is probably Te’Jon Lucas. The Milwaukee grad transfer is proving to be one of the best passing guards BYU has had over the last three decades, as he can significantly impact the game through his passing.

Lucas is averaging five assists to go along with 10 points per game. He’s fresh off the best performance of his BYU career to date, scoring 18 points over Texas Southern.

The matchup between BYU’s backcourt against Utah’s backcourt with David Jenkins (UNLV transfer) and Marco Anthony (Utah State) will be some of the best action tonight.

Rebounding has been a strength for BYU basketball; can it continue against Utah?

One of the areas that Mark Pope has been proud of with his team is their presence on the glass. BYU has gone up against some physical teams that attack the glass, and they’ve outrebounded each team so far. Utah will be another difficult test.

The Utes are eighth nationally in offensive rebound percentage and 16th on the defensive glass. Utah State transfer Marco Anthony, who followed Craig Smith from Logan to Salt Lake for his final collegiate season, leads Utah in rebounding with 8.8 boards per game. Seven-footer Branden Carlson is second with 7.2 per game.

For BYU basketball, Gideon George leads the way with 7.4 per game. He’s fresh off a career-high 16 rebound performance in the win over Texas Southern. However, after pulling down the career-high 16th board, he left to the bench and was attended to by trainer Rob Ramos, where he had a medical message machine applied to his lower back area. In Wednesday night’s postgame, Mark Pope said that the former JUCO transfer “would be fine,” but it’s something to monitor heading into the rivalry contest.

BYU’s other top rebounders include freshman Fousseyni Traore, who continues to be a star for the Cougars in his first year in the program. Traore is averaging seven rebounds per game. Then former Utah signee Caleb Lohner rolls into the Huntsman Center for the first time of his career as one of BYU’s top rebounders at 6.2 per contest.

Probable Starters

BYU (5-0)

G – Alex Barcello, 6-2, 192, Sr.

G – Te’Jon Lucas, 6-1, 187, Sr.

F – Gideon George, 6-6, 210, Sr.

F – Caleb Lohner, 6-8, 235, Soph.

C – Gavin Baxter, 6-9, 228, Sr.

Utah (5-0)

G – David Jenkins Jr., 6-1, 204, Sr.

G – Marco Anthony, 6-5, 223, Sr.

F – Rollie Worster, 6-4, 201, Soph.

F – Riley Battin, 6-9, 230, Sr.

C – Branden Carlson, 7-0, 216, Jr.

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

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