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BYU handles error-prone U.

Cougs fall behind early, take charge with a 19-2 run

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Utah's Tim Frost dives for a loose ball over BYU's Garner Meads as Jared Jensen closes in during Monday night's game at the Marriott Center. BYU captured its seventh straight win.

Utah’s Tim Frost dives for a loose ball over BYU’s Garner Meads as Jared Jensen closes in during Monday night’s game at the Marriott Center. BYU captured its seventh straight win.

Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News

PROVO — The BYU basketball team clinched the No. 2 seed at next week's Mountain West Conference tournament in Denver and greatly improved its NCAA Tournament chances with a 70-57 victory over Utah Monday night.

The Cougars overcame an early 10-point deficit with a 19-2 run to end the first half and hung on to win their seventh straight game in front of 22,718, the largest Marriott Center crowd in 12 years.

With the win, BYU improved to 19-7 and 9-4 in MWC play, while Utah fell to 20-8 and 8-5.

For the Cougars it was only their fourth win against Utah in the last 21 meetings and the first over the Utes since 2002.

Mike Hall led BYU with 21 points, while Mark Bigelow scored 19 and Rafael Araujo added 16. Nick Jacobson led Utah with 16 points, Tim Frost scored 11 and Andrew Bogut added 10.

The two teams shot almost the same percentage (46 to 41 for BYU) and the Utes won the rebounding battle 36-30. But the big difference was turnovers as Utah finished with a season-high 22 turnovers against the tenacious Cougar defense, while BYU only had seven miscues.

The Cougars took a 26-19 halftime lead despite trailing by as many as 10 points in the early going. Turnovers killed the Utes, as they had 14 in the first half alone.

Utah came out on fire, bursting to an 8-0 lead as Bogut scored on a three-point play, Tim Drisdom hit a jumper and Jacobson sank a 3-pointer.

Jacobson hit two more jumpers, including a three, and Justin Hawkins made a jumper to give the Utes a 15-7 lead with 11:45 left. When Bogut scored on a tip-in a couple of minutes later, the Utes' lead was 10 at 17-7.

Then the BYU defense got tough, forcing turnovers on Utah's next five possessions. Two of them came off steals by Hall, whose second steal and layup tied the score with 6:03 left.

Frost quieted the crowd briefly with a basket, but the Utes kept missing shots and turning the ball over and BYU ended the half on a 9-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer by Bigelow with 35 seconds left. Frost missed three free throws in the final 2:30 of the half.

In the second half, the Cougars couldn't put away the pesky Utes, who stayed within 10 points most of the way. An inside shot by Bogut pulled the Utes within four at 43-39 with 9:01 left before the Cougars scored seven straight to make it 50-39.

Hawkins scored inside and then Bogut sank a 3-pointer to make it a six-point game with 4:40 left. However, Kevin Woodberry answered with a 3-pointer at the other end to make it a nine-point game. Drisdom cut the lead to six at 59-53 with three free throws, but the Cougars made several layups and free throws to put the game away.

NOTES: The Utes and Cougars finish up the regular season on the road Saturday. Utah plays at San Diego State in a 4 p.m. MST game, while BYU plays at UNLV at 1:30 p.m. MST . . . The MWC Tournament will be played March 11-13 at the Pepsi Center in Denver. With BYU clinching the No. 2 spot and Utah likely headed for the No. 3 spot, it's possible the two rivals could meet again in Friday's semifinals . . . Last year the Utes defeated the Cougars 79-75, BYU's only home defeat in the last 62 games . . . After tonight's outcome, Utah now leads the all-time series with BYU 119-117 . . . Earlier this season, Utah came back from a 15-point halftime deficit to beat the Cougars 64-56 at the Huntsman Center . . . Six BYU seniors were honored before the game for Senior Night: Bigelow, Araujo, Woodberry, Luiz Lemes, Jake Shoff and Ricky Bower, who sat out with an injury . . . Utah reserve forward Jonas Langvad stayed home and missed the game because of illness . . . Bryant Markson made his second start of the season in place of Richard Chaney . . . Utah has not allowed an opponent to score more than 80 points in regulation in 122 games. The last opponent to do it was Wyoming in 2000.

E-mail: sor@desnews.com