Photo by Mykah Heaton
BYU marched into the UCCU Center Wednesday night and dominated UVU in every facet of the game, winning by a score of 85-58. A year after the Wolverines shocked the Cougars by scoring 114 points in an upset win on their home floor in the Marriott Center, BYU returned the favor to take a 3-1 series lead. Here are five takeaways from the game.
The short rotation of head coach Mark Pope is becoming a big issue for the Wolverines. BYU rotated through 12 players to UVU’s eight. One of those eight players was Zach Nelson, who is recovering from injury and was on the floor for just five minutes. If UVU hopes to have fresh legs for the WAC tournament in March, Brandon Randolph and Kenneth Ogbe, who already has an injury history of his own, can’t be racking up 38 minutes a night.
After seven games played, it has become readily apparent that this team struggles to break a zone defense. The difficulty displayed against Kentucky and Duke could be chalked up to the length of those squads, but UVU did not move the ball well against the Cougars. Instead of breaking down the zone defense by moving the ball across the court, the Wolverines got caught up playing isolation style. It’s easier to guard one person with five people.
As a senior who has played in big games for Utah and fought through injuries his entire career, Ogbe is a clear leader for the Wolverines. He leads by example with his play and keeps the team emotionally invested in the game. When he struggles, often-times the team follows suit.This was also the case with Idaho State when Ogbe scored just six points and the Wolverines didn’t pull away from the Bengals until late in the second half. Ogbe finished the night against BYU 2-of-9 from the field and 5-of-10 from the charity stripe for a total of nine points. If the Wolverines want to have a chance in big games, they have to get Ogbe going.
In 2016, UVU knocked down 18 3-pointers against BYU, effectively keeping the pressure on them the whole game. Cougars head coach Dave Rose had a game plan in this year’s game to take away 3-point shots and the outcome was successful. UVU shot just eight threes the whole game, the lone make coming from Randolph in the first couple minutes of the first half. BYU, on the other hand, drained 12 shots from beyond the arc with an impressive 46 percent clip.
Home Court Advantage
For the first time ever, the UCCU Center sold out for a UVU Division I sporting event and was at capacity Wednesday night with a reported attendance of 7,574. What’s more impressive is the approximate 60/40 split of fans cheering for UVU, which is a conservative assessment. The days of UVU students cheering for BYU are drawing to a close as the Wolverines continue to climb the NCAA food chain. It was a raucous atmosphere that for much of the first half was waiting to come unglued for a UVU run that never came. Despite what the final score said, the teams are similarly matched and, if BYU obliges, they should have many close games in the future and develop into a fun rivalry game.