SALT LAKE CITY (NWN) — No. 18 relies heavily on BYU senior Alex Barcelo. So when Utah tried to take Barcelo away on Saturday night, T’John was ready to grab the reins for Lucas Cougar.
Lucas scored a season-high 18 points to lead BYU to a 75–64 win over Utah. In doing so, the Cougars remained undefeated.
Lucas, a senior transfer who has played in Illinois and Milwaukee, scored 8 of 10 shots and two 3-pointers as his teammates struggled on the outside.
“Alex is a great player and they were definitely trying to take some things away, so I was trying to make the right game,” he said. “Tonight, the shots were really falling for me.”
Barcelo still finished with 17 points, most of them late in the game as he controlled the ball and got 11 of 12 points from the free throw line.
“Te’Jon gives us the luxury of manipulating where Alex is,” said BYU coach Mark Pope. “We don’t really need to have the ball in Alex’s hands. He can be really effective without the ball.”
Gavin Baxter scored a season-high 14 points and Caleb Lohner added 10 points and 12 rebounds for BYU (6-0).
“We were defending very well in the second half and we just kept rebounding and things went our way. Then we had more momentum and a little bit faster on the offensive end,” said Lohner, who originally committed to Utah before moving to BYU.
Brendan Carlson had 17 points and Roly Wurster had 13 points for the Utes (5–1), who suffered their first loss of the season after five consecutive victories under new coach Craig Smith.
The Cougars overtook the Utes, who were third in country 45–28 in rebound margins and had a 48–28 scoring advantage in the paint.
“We told our guys all week that it would be a men’s game,” Smith said. “You have to do all those physical plays.”
Nevertheless, Utes was unhappy and remained within striking distance until the last minute, when his inability to grab a rebound won the game.
Down 40-39, the Cougars went on to 13-2, which was punctured with a dunk by Fosseini Traore to make it 52-41 with 9:16. Till that time no team had been able to go beyond double digits.
Utes cut the lead several times, but the Cougars always had an answer, shooting 56% off the field in the second half that included multiple laps and dunks.
Utah took a 7-0 lead in the first half and took a 29-27 lead in the half under Stefonovic’s eight-point lead. Both teams played high-pressure, intense defense. Open shots were few and many attempts were delayed in the shot clock.
Early in the game, Ute senior big man Dusan Mahorsic left the game with a knee injury, and then leading rebounder Marco Anthony was ruled out before tipoff with a sprained ankle.
Pope said, “It was the highest-class rebounding team we’ve faced and obviously they’re sad to see Anthony and Dussen not there, but we rebounded so well and it’s saving us because other things.” which we just aren’t doing well,” the Pope said. ,
Utah had not lost to BYU in its home court since 2011.
BYU: The Cougar showed some nerves in this rivalry game, but showed calmness and composure down the stretch, grabbing big rebounds and converting their free throws. His inner strength proved to be the key to thwarting Utah’s pressure defense.
Utah: In his toughest test yet, Utes stayed with the Cougar for most of the game but missed Anthony and Mahoric on the board. Utes’ half-court motion offense was not producing the open shots he saw in early-season games.
Mo’ better, less worse
BYU has the slogan “Mo’ better, less bad” to emphasize getting more shots and refining shot selection. With more aggressive rebounds and more steals, the team is going to get more shot attempts – and probably easier attempts.
“All our analysis pushes us back to that simple statement,” Pope said.
Against Utah, the players responded with 18 offensive rebounds and six steals, while restricting Utah to 42% shooting. Mo’ better, actually.
BYU: Visited neighboring Utah Valley on Wednesday night.
Utah: The Pac-12 game begins Wednesday night at No. 24 USC.