Oh, somewhere in
this favored land the sun is shining bright.
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light.
And, somewhere men are laughing, and little children shout,
but there is no joy in Mudville --
mighty Casey has struck out.
Those immortal words by Ernest L. Thayer in "Casey at the Bat" came to mind on the drive home from the Huntsman Center. I had never before attended a sporting event there and the BYU-Utah men's basketball game this year seemed like a good one to be at.
After all, BYU had not won in that arena in 12 seasons. There are ample reasons why the Cougars have not been victorious there, but in 2006 this streak seemed like it would come to an end. I had even predicted such a victory.
The Cougars were HOT! They had won five of their last six games and were tied for third in a league they were picked to finish last. The Utes were in a tail spin having dropped six of their last eight. All the momentum was pointing BYU's way.
The game started out nicely, if you were a Cougar fan. An early 11-5 lead and the few pockets of BYU faithful were cheering nice and loud. But it was all downhill from there. Utah finished the half on a 34-13 run and the rout was on.
There was a nice eight-minute delay while officials tried to determine if Brock Reichner, who led all scorers with 21 points, had been fouled before the shot clock expired. The officials finally determined that there was not incontrovertible visual evidence that Reichner got the shot off in time. BYU never recovered.
The Cougars limped to the half and tried to mount another second half comeback, which they did – to an extent. For an eight-minute stretch, the Utes scored nary a bucket; unfortunately, the Cougars were unable to capitalize and could close to no closer than nine points.
BYU fans who were eagerly awaiting a rare victory on "The Hill" left disappointed and wondering just what BYU has to do to win against Utah. Their bitter rivals seem to have the Cougs number. It does not seem to matter the sport or the situation or level the teams are playing, Utah seems to know what it takes to beat BYU.
Point: D. A combined 2-17 from the floor shooting will simply not get it done. Rashaun Broadus and Austin Ainge must start shooting consistently. Ainge has been in a funk all season, shooting just 31-percent in conference play and 34-percent on the year. Although they only had one turnover between them, they both struggled with Utah's pressure and found it difficult to get BYU into their offense.
Wing: C. The only saving grace was Reichner, who at times appeared to be the only Cougar willing to compete. But even he struggled, committing four turnovers. Jimmy Balderson, Lee Cummard, Mike Rose, and Jackson Emery combined to score five points (all by Balderson) on 2-9 shooting. During the Cougars four-game win streak Balderson averaged more than 16 points.
Post: C. Just looking at the stats of Keena Young and Trent Plaisted and this grade should be higher. KT scored 14 and had eight rebounds. Plaisted had a double-double with 12 and 12. Derek Dawes and Fernando Malaman were non-factors.
Coach: C+. The game plan was there. BYU got off to a decent start. Open shots were to be had all game long. No single Ute scored more than 14 and the Cougars had 12 more shot attempts than Utah. Coach Rose, I thought, used his timeouts well. He tried to slow Ute momentum and drew up plays to get his guys open looks. But many of those shots were missed and BYU could not exploit Ute miscues.
- Very sparsely attended by Utah fans. There were maybe 1500 Cougar fans and in the beginning they seemed to be louder than those in red. My theory is that many Ute fans stayed away because they feared seeing a BYU victory and did not want to see the Cougars celebrate on their floor after 11 years of ineptitude.
- Ironically, but not surprisingly, once the game was well in hand the Utes became much more vocal and directed a lot of their cheering towards the BYU fans. They could talk their smack all they want and the Cougs could do nothing but take it.
- If a team gets 47 points from three players, you would think they would on their way to victory. But when the other eight players combine for just 13, there are issues.
- Bryant Markson of Utah missed to two wide open dunks – one off a steal and breakaway and the other of a backdoor cut.
- For the last several seasons, BYU has struggled to defend back-door cuts. Air Force has made a living off these the last three years and Utah exploited this all night as well.
- Plaisted is becoming a very good rebounder and offensive rebounder in particular. In conference games, he is averaging three offensive rebounds a game; only Young and Malaman average more total rebounds than Plaisted's offensive boards. Plaisted has had seven total boards in five of the last six games.
- After being in the top five in the conference in assists, Ainge has not had one the last three games.
- Neither Rose nor Emery has scored since the road game at San Diego State.
- BYU's next game is this Saturday at the Marriott Center. They play UNLV. The game is to be televised on ESPN2 at 6 p.m. MDT. Wear Blue on the 2!
- BYU is now 14-7 on the year. Their 6-4 conference record is good for a third place tie with Air Force.