Utah is quietly emerging as a complete team as the Utes get ready to face off with Saturday afternoon BYU in Provo, Utah.
The Utes (9-2) have won five straight games. They are averaging 95.0 points per game over their last two contests and already have won five games by at least 20 points this season.
Tough defense has been Utah’s calling card early in the season. The Utes rank second nationally in rebounds per game (44.0) through Thursday’s games, and rank in the top five nationally in field goal defense (34.4%, third) and 3-point field goal defense (25.4%, fifth).
Their defensive prowess showed in a 91-70 victory over UTSA on Tuesday. The Roadrunners were stifled on offense for long stretches and Utah pulled away early in the second half. Branden Carlson led the Utes with a career-high 27 points, eight rebounds, and four blocks.
Utah plays a physical brand of basketball that emphasizes hustle plays on both ends of the court.
“That is what we are about,” Utah coach Craig Smith said. “That needs to be our mentality.”
BYU (7-5) seems to finally be back on track after enduring a sluggish start that included losses to South Dakota and Utah Valley. The Cougars upset Big East preseason favorite Creighton in Las Vegas last weekend and followed it up Thursday with a 97-64 victory over Division II opponent Western Oregon.
BYU is finding its outside shot after some early struggles. The Cougars made 15 3-pointers against Western Oregon after shooting just 29 percent from beyond the arc against Creighton. Gideon George made four 3-pointers against the Wolves as part of his team-high 21 points.
“We are a work in progress and we have to be really patient with our group but we did some things well,” BYU coach Mark Pope said.
BYU and Utah are meeting for the 263rd time. The Cougars lead 133-129 in the rivalry series and beat the Utes 75-64 in Salt Lake City last season.
–Field Level Media