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Utah’s inside game leaves BYU stunned in overtime comeback win

Utah came back from 16 points down to tie and overtake BYU 102-95 in the Huntsman Center, spoiling the season debut of Yoeli Childs

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Utah Utes forward Timmy Allen (1) celebrates after a basket as Utah and BYU play an NCAA basketball game at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. Utah won 102-95 in overtime.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — BYU had its 3-point shooters and Utah had its defense and layups. The home hustlers won going away in an extra session.

Utah used a smothering man defense and obliterated BYU’s defense in an exciting 102-95 comeback overtime win Wednesday night in the Jon Huntsman Center.

If there was any defense played this night, it was mainly by the home team.

“More than anything, it was staying in it,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “We had an opportunity to fold, but we stayed in the moment. It was a heckuva fight.”

Utah came back from 16 points down and 41-33 halftime deficit, outscoring BYU 53-45 to take it to overtime. Once there, the Utes were in total control, outscoring the Cougars 16-9 in an impressive display of belly-up D and intense ball-hawking defense that left BYU reeling.

The recipe for Krystkowiak was simple.

BYU would get its share of 3-point shots, but Utah had length and speed and attacked the Cougars almost at will on dribble-drive penetration, screens and motion. During one flurry in the second half, Utah made eight consecutive layups to cut BYU’s second-half lead to 69-65.

The Cougars had no answer on that end of the court.

If you put music to it, that Utah attack in the point, it would probably be something from the movie “Jaws.”

You either credit Utah’s formula and execution or blame BYU’s inability to defend the paint, even with Yoeli Childs back in the lineup after serving a nine-game suspension.

Childs left the game with five minutes to play with an undisclosed injury and BYU’s other most experienced player, TJ Haws, fouled out on a charge call with three minutes remaining with the Cougars up 81-77.

Childs’ injury looked like a muscle cramp and when he hobbled off, he didn’t come back.

It may not have mattered the way Utah attacked the paint with regular success. Most of the damage came from Timmy Allen (27), Rylan Jones (25), Riley Battin (14), Mikael Jantunen (18) and Jaxon Brenchley. But it may not have mattered. Even Both Gach got in the action, diving inside and leaping towards the rim with regularity.

Utah outshot BYU 58% to 54% from the floor. That overcame BYU’s 12 of 24 shooting from beyond the arc, a key to BYU’s early lead. Utah shot just 4 of 18 for 22%. But it was a strategy BYU could not hold under Utah’s assault at top of the key steals off BYU’s motion offense and key stops late inside the lane on Jake Toolson (27 points).

Here’s the skinny: Utah outscored BYU 62-38 inside the paint and had the advantage in turnovers 20-11.  

That’s like tanks going up against arrows.

Utah had 10 steals to BYU’s 4. That made up for BYU outrebounding Utah 33-28.

Utah shot 14 more free throws and outscored BYU from the line by 9. That could also be considered the difference.

In the close range that should be the easiest, and fundamentally necessary for great basketball, it was no contest. BYU had no inside scoring, and Utah was finger curling buckets in the hoop all night.

Childs acquitted himself well in his debut of the season, albeit a loss. He did his damage in just 25 minutes, more than a point per minute played.

But the trio of Allen, Jones, and Jantunen was too much for the Cougar defense. Dalton Nixon joined Haws with five fouls late and went gonzo.

Childs primarily played outside where he was very effective, making all three of his attempts from beyond the arc in the first few minutes of the game. Aside from a pair of dunks and some nice mid-range shots, BYU could have used him in the end, like they could have used him against Boise State and San Diego State. He finished with a game-high 29 and 7 rebounds on 12 of 16 shooting from the floor.

This was an impressive win for the Utes because the Cougars came in from Hawaii hot and hopeful. Getting back Childs is a big deal for the team. He is ranked as the nation’s No. 18 player by CBS Sports.

Childs’ 29 included 18 points and 6 rebounds in the first 16 minutes. His first field goal since his banishment for a paperwork snafu last spring when he tested the waters to go pro, was a silky top of the key 3-pointer that snapped the net 65 seconds into his season.

With the student band chanting, “You let your team down, you let your team down,” during his first free throws of the season, Childs just bore down.

Childs then hit two more from distance, all dead center, like pitching tennis balls into a bathtub. He hit his first four shots from the field and added a slam dunk as BYU took an early 20-8 lead on a very young Ute team.

And that’s the other impressive thing about this Utah win in early December.

According to KenPom, Utah is 352 out of 353 collegiate teams in player/roster experience, everyone on the roster either a freshman or sophomore. BYU, on the other hand, with Haws, Childs and WAC Player of the Year Toolson, is the 21st most experienced.

This was a heated battle, intense, and Utah looked inspired to hold home court. The focus was never elsewhere, and it showed at the end with Utah outplaying BYU in overtime.