Takeaways From No. 14 BYU’s Road Loss At Rival Utah

Dec 9, 2023, 8:39 PM | Updated: 11:29 pm

BYU/Utah, Atiki Ally Atiki, Hunter Erickson...

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - DECEMBER 9: Hunter Erickson #0 of the Utah Utes and Atiki Ally Atiki #4 of the Brigham Young Cougars loose control of a rebound during the first half of their game at the Jon M Huntsman Center on December 9, 2023 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – No. 14 BYU basketball suffered its first loss of the season, falling to rival Utah 73-69 in the Huntsman Center.

Here are some takeaways from the BYU side of the night.

It’s a make-shots sport

BYU finished Saturday’s 73-69 loss, shooting 37% from the field and 27% from three.

There’s a lot of analysis you can provide from that game. But at the end of the day, you must make shots to come away with a win on the road.

BYU’s shooting throughout the night never looked like the team that steamrolled to an 8-0 start to begin the year.

BYU has to improve in late-game situations

Dallin Hall was a clutch bucket-getter at the end-of-game situations last season. He got the ball on a pass from Aly Khalifa with seconds remaining and lost the possession.

To come away with no attempt when down 71-69 was a backbreaker for BYU, as the Utes got the ball back with 1.8 seconds to ice it away with a pair of Rollie Worster free throws.

It makes you wonder if BYU needs to identify a go-to player in late-game situations. Is it Dallin Hall? What about Jaxson Robinson?

Mark Pope is not worrying about that for the moment.

“I think we have a bunch of guys who we can go to, actually; I think we do,” said Pope. “But this is going to be an ‘us’ deal all year long. This is a us deal. We’re in a league that has three NBA lottery picks on every single team it seems like. The way we’re gonna have a chance to win as US. That is the most important thing. So, we are great with us. We’re great with go-to guys that are playmakers. … But we’re not going to be a team that is like, ‘Hey, let’s put it in his hands and then go to work.’ That’s not us right now.”

Free Throws are free, right?

BYU finished the night 10-of-18 from the free throw line. If you hit half of those misses from the charity stripe, it’s a tied ball game. That doesn’t include a pair of front-end misses as well in the second half.

The road environments aren’t going to be any easier in the Big 12. Saturday night in the Huntsman Center during stretches sounded like a BYU home game as Cougar fan packed the upper bowl.

Opening possession was a tone-setter

It’s a small thing, but guard Dallin Hall missing a wide-open reverse layup on BYU’s opening offensive series felt like a tone-setter for the rest of the game.

Nothing was going to come easy for BYU in this game. Utah made BYU earn every bucket.

Fousseyni Traore being out loomed large

The absence of Fousseyni Traore was magnified for the first time this season. Traore suffered a hamstring injury against NC State on Black Friday last month. Since his injury, BYU has continued to fly high without a hitch.

Saturday night against Utah was a strong reminder that BYU isn’t the same team without Traore.

Utah’s frontcourt, led by Branden Carlson and Keba Keita, had their way on both ends of the floor against BYU, particularly in the first half.

The high-low action from Utah created consistent mismatches where the Ute bigs were up against BYU guards.

Carlson only had two points in the second half. Keita finished with 10 points.

The BYU frontcourt of Aly Khalifa, Noah Waterman, and reserve Atiki Ally Atiki struggled.

Khalifa was excellent passing the ball, as usual, he finished with six assists.

But Khalifa, Waterman, and Atiki finished with six points on the night in the scoring department.

BYU basketball had a “bipolar offense”

BYU coach Mark Pope called the second half offense “bipolar.”

When BYU would put together a 4-0, 5-0 run, Utah always had an answer to derail the comeback attempt from BYU.

But Pope felt there were too many self-inflicted wounds to overcome.

“I think it was more us. The Barkley is when we kind of just work our way in the post off the bounce. We did that off-ball screens consecutively. And we did that off-ball screens consecutively. We did it off-transition separately,” Pope said.

Pope continued, “But normally, when we do that, we’re going to make plays for our teammates, and everyone wants to save us, which is understandable. Like, you get it. These guys are ranked and everything and all this stuff; playing an in-state game, you want to win. It’s just not the decision-making that we actually make out of those possessions.”

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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Takeaways From No. 14 BYU’s Road Loss At Rival Utah