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BYU digs early hole, can't recover in loss to Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — A horribly slow start, and ice-cold shooting, doomed BYU Saturday night at the Huntsman Center.

Numerous Cougar shots clanged off the rim — including at the free-throw line — while Utah jumped out to an 18-point lead in the first half.

As it turned out, the deficit was too much for BYU to overcome as the Utes dismantled the Cougars, 81-64.

“They just beat us. They played really well right from the start,” said guard Tyler Haws, who scored a team-high 14 points. “We couldn’t answer their runs. You have to give them a lot of credit. … We didn’t look like ourselves for most of the game. It’s something we’ve got to fix.”

Utah's biggest lead was 23 points late in the second half.

BYU shot 33 percent (21 of 64) from the field, 26 percent (5 of 19) from 3-point territory and 55 percent (17 of 31) from the free-throw line.

Haws, Matt Carlino and Kyle Collinsworth combined to shoot a miserable 9 of 37 from the floor on the night.

“We never really found ourselves,” said coach Dave Rose. “Our shooting percentage was so bad that guys tried to take it upon themselves. … We had a hard time making free throws, and that makes you less aggressive when you miss some free throws. We had a hard time on the offensive end of the floor.”

The outcome snapped the Cougars’ seven-game winning streak against Utah. The Cougars had won 11 of the previous 12 games going into Saturday’s showdown.

BYU missed 12 of its first 15 shots from the floor, while Ute forward Jordan Loveridge scored 15 — including three 3-pointers — in the early going to lift the Utes to a big lead. At the 10-minute mark of the first half, the Cougars trailed, 26-10.

“He just got open shots,” Haws said of Loveridge. “We came in knowing that he’s a good player. He found a way to get open and got it going a little bit.”

At halftime, BYU was shooting 31 percent and had made just 5 of 12 from the free-throw line.

Carlino, Haws and Collinsworth combined to shoot 6 of 23 from the field in the first half.

“We wanted to keep them under 65 points, but we still would have lost,” Collinsworth said. “That’s uncommon for us. We didn’t shoot well from the field and our defense wasn’t where it needed to be. We were off in every category. It was one of those nights.”

“We had a lot of chances in the first half (to get back into the game),” Rose said. “We weren’t in sync. A lot of that had to do with the atmosphere, and a lot of that had to do with their athleticism, length and size. It wasn’t our best game, that’s for sure.”

Things didn’t get much better for the Cougars in the second half. Utah extended its lead to 19 before BYU whittled the deficit to 13. But moments later, Utah grabbed a 20-point advantage, 58-38, on a Brandon Taylor 3-pointer.

And things continued to get worse.

With 8:28 remaining, freshman forward Eric Mika was ejected for a flagrant 2 foul against Ute center Dallin Bachynski.

Mika left the game with a double-double — 12 points and 10 rebounds.

While the absence of Mika hurt the Cougars late in the game, it was probably too late for BYU anyway.