Cougars and Utes clash at Vivint Smart Home Arena
After Wednesday’s impressive 95-80 victory against Utah State in the Marriott Center, BYU coach Dave Rose was asked what he learned about his team.
“I have a lot of respect for the teams that we’ve coached here, how they stay together and stick together,” Rose said. “This was a tough run for this group. The captains got the guys together so I knew there would be some real outward show of determination. But it’s inside that you’ve that got to challenge yourself to compete on every possession.
“We took on a team that was playing as well as any team in the country the past few weeks and the guys were ready from the start. We’ve been a team that has had some real flat spots, sometimes even in wins. We did that in the first part of the second half, but other than that, this was a group of really determined guys who wanted to change things.”
So the three-game losing streak is history and Nick Emery played exceptionally well in his first game in 18 months.
It would appear the Cougars are trending up.
The next challenge is what should prove to be an interesting and emotional game at Vivint Smart Home Arena on Saturday against the University of Utah at noon MT. It’s the first game of the Beehive Classic, followed by Utah State and Weber State at 2:30 p.m. MT.
Utah is 4-3 this season and coming off a 69-64 win at home against Tulsa.
“We’re excited,” BYU junior guard T.J. Haws said after the Utah State win. “That’s a huge rivalry. It’s going to be a great atmosphere and a great game. Hopefully we’ll have great practice again tomorrow and build on this energy. We’ll be ready to go for Saturday.”
This will be the first time Emery has taken the court against the Utes since the infamous 2015 meeting at the Huntsman Center during his freshman season. Emery took a swing at Utah guard Brandon Taylor, was ejected and suspended for a game. Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak wasn’t satisfied with BYU’s penitence and threatened to end the series for safety concerns. The Cougars and Utes didn’t play in 2016 but BYU won 77-68 in Provo in 2017.
Emery said he’s prepared for whatever happens on Saturday, but one guarantee is that Utah fans at the game won’t let him forget the incident.
Emery played 19 minutes against Utah State, making 3 of 4 from the 3-point line, dishing out a pair of assists and grabbing two steals. The 6-foot-2 junior guard make a 3-pointer less than 20 seconds after checking into the game.
“That doesn’t surprise me at all,” Haws said. “Nick is a gamer. He stepped in and knocked down big shots for us. He guarded the ball really well. It’s been a long ride for him and I’m extremely proud of him after what he’s gone through. To come out and do what he did was a special thing for him and a confidence boost for us.”
The contract for the Beehive Classic extends to next season, when BYU will play Utah State and Utah will face Weber State.
“I would like it to keep it going,” Rose said. “I don’t know the ins and outs of it financially. There has to be a financial gain for someone to keep it going. It’s great for the state, great for the fans and the players love it. I hope it continues.”