Utah can't keep up with No. 7 BYU
BYU pulled away from rival Utah thanks to Jimmer Fredette and a surprise star.
Fredette scored 23 points, fill-in starter Charles Abouo added 22 and the No. 7 Cougars beat Utah 72-59 on Saturday in the teams' final regular-season meeting as Mountain West Conference foes.
Fredette, who leads the nation in scoring, had 17 points in the final nine minutes and 12 in a row to help the Cougars (24-2, 10-1 MWC) take control after the game was tied at 48-48. However, he finished 6 of 19 from the field.
Abouo, a junior from the Ivory Coast who entered with a season high of 13 points, scored 17 and grabbed six rebounds in the first half alone. He also finished with 10 rebounds.
''I just go out there and try to play hard, and I just happened to be the guy who benefited from some good passes,'' Abouo said.
Senior guard Jackson Emery also helped spark BYU's second-half charge, after the Cougars led 31-30 at halftime, by scoring 13 of his 17 points after the break. The school's career steals leader added six to his total.
''I take a lot of pride in being a spark for the team,'' Emery said.
It was the 252nd meeting between the programs, with BYU leading the series 127-125. The Cougars have won five straight and nine of 10 against the Utes, who are moving to the Pac-12 next season. BYU's joining the West Coast Conference for all sports but football.
The schools are expected to keep playing at least once a year as non-conference opponents, however.
The Utes (10-15, 3-8 MWC) stayed close for 34 minutes behind Will Clyburn (16 points), J.J. O'Brien (10 points and seven rebounds) and Chris Kupets (14 points off the bench).
''That was a knockdown, drag-out game,'' BYU coach Dave Rose said. ''I think that's what we expected.''
The Cougars struggled from the floor early, but still pulled out to a 13-6 lead behind Abouo's strong start. He was in the lineup because Kyle Collinsworth has been slowed by a concussion.
While the rest of the Cougars opened 2 of 14 from the field, Abouo went 5 of 6 in scoring 11 of his team's first 16 points.
Utah, thanks to 7-foot-3 center David Foster's work on the offensive glass and the spark Kupets provided, stormed back to take a 20-16 lead.
After taking a short breather, Abouo returned to hit a three-pointer that tied it at 22. He continued to carry the Cougars the rest of the opening half, scoring 17 of BYU's 31 points before the break.
Fredette, meanwhile, struggled through a 3 of 9 first half, but still gave the Cougars a 31-30 halftime lead with a late scoop shot. Aside from Abouo's 6 of 8 shooting, the rest of the Cougars were 6 of 23 at the break.
''Charles having 22 points is a direct result of how (Utah) wanted to guard Jimmer, and Charles was ready to go,'' Rose said. ''Different guys are stepping up and we're finding ways to win games.''
When Emery came out and scored seven quick points for BYU, the Cougars pulled out to a 48-40 lead, the biggest margin to that point. But Clyburn hit back-to-back three-pointers and a baseline jumper to tie it at 48-48.
Fredette, with only eight points at that point, scored 12 straight in BYU's 14-0 run to take control of the game. He began the spurt with a three-point play, then added two free throws, a deep three-pointer, two more free throws and a reverse layup. Sophomore center Brandon Davies capped the run with a hook in the lane to push BYU's lead to 62-48.
''When Jimmer got into the paint and got a few free throws, that's when the game broke open,'' Utah coach Jim Boylen said. ''This is a hard place to play in and they are a good team.''
Utah cut the margin to 62-54 on a three-point play by O'Brien and another three by Kupets with four minutes remaining. The Utes, however, were unable to get any closer.
''I knew that if we controlled the pace of this game it would be to our advantage. I feel like we did that tonight. However, we had a lot of turnovers and they played a great zone defense,'' Boylen said.