SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – BYU generally relies heavily on senior Alex Barcello. So when Utah tried to take Barcello on Saturday night, Te’Jon Lucas was more than ready to take the Cougars’ reins.
Lucas scored a high 18 points to lead BYU to a 75-64 victory over Utah. In doing so, the Cougars remained undefeated.
Lucas, a senior transfer who played at Illinois and Milwaukee, had 8 of 10 shots and two 3 points as his teammates struggled on the outside.
“Alex is a great player and they were definitely trying to pull some things away, so I was over there trying to make the right play,” he said. “Tonight the blows were really falling for me.”
Barcello still finished with 17 points, with most of them arriving late in the game with control of the ball and were 11 of 12 from the free throw line.
“Te’Jon gives us the luxury of manipulating where Alex is,” said BYU coach Mark Pope. “Actually, we don’t need to have the ball in Alex’s hands. It can be really effective without a ball.
Gavin Baxter scored 14 points, a season record, and former Utah entry Caleb Lohner added 10 points and 12 rebounds for BYU (6-0).
“We defended a lot better in the second half and we continued to bounce back and things started to go our way. Then we had more pace and were a little faster on the offensive end, ”said Lohner, who originally signed up for Utah before switching to BYU.
Brendan Carlson had 17 points and Rollie Worster had 13 for the Utes (5-1), who suffered their first loss of the season after five straight wins under new coach Craig Smith.
The Cougars passed the Utes, who were third in the country in rebounding margin, 45-28 and had a 48-28 advantage in the paint.
“We’ve been telling our guys all week it will be a men’s game,” Smith said. “You have to do all of these physical games.”
Still, the Utes were disjointed and stayed within striking distance until the final minutes, when their inability to grab a rebound won the game.
Led 40-39, the Cougars achieved a 13-2 streak punctuated by a dunk from Fousseyni Traoré to bring the score to 52-41 with 9:16 to go. Neither team had led in double digits so far.
The Utes cut the lead to six on several occasions, but the Cougars always had a response, shooting 56 percent from the field in the second half which included a number of layups and dunks.
Utah took a 7-0 lead in the first inning and led 29-27 at halftime, led by Stefonovic’s eight points. Both teams played intense, high pressure defense. Open shots were few and many attempts were made late in the shot clock.
Early in the game Ute’s big senior man Dusan Mahorcic left the game with an apparent knee injury, and that was after main rebounder Marco Anthony was ruled out before tipping with a sprained ankle. .
“It was the highest rated rebound team we’ve come against and clearly hurts them for not having Anthony and Dusan, but we rebounded so well and it saves us because there are other things that we’re not doing very well right now, ”Pope said.