SALT LAKE CITY — Jordan Loveridge came out firing and so did the Utah Utes Saturday night in the Huntsman Center. And when it was all said and done, the BYU Cougars didn’t have much of chance.
Thanks to an early outburst, Utah ended a seven-game skid against BYU with a 81-64 victory before an enthusiastic crowd of 13,337. It was the Utes’ first win over the Cougars since a double overtime win in Salt Lake City on Jan. 27, 2009.
Loveridge, who finished with a game-high 21 points, led the charge as Utah quickly erased the only lead BYU held in the game at 2-0. The former West Jordan High School star made six of his first eight shots as the Utes pulled away early and decisively.
“It was a great lift,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “It’s a great lift. I think about some of the Salt Lake kids that have been watching this rivalry for a long time and it means a great deal to them.”
Krystkowiak noted that Loveridge puts in a lot of extra work, often arriving at the arena early in the morning to work on his shot with his father, Bill.
“I love the thought that you have moments like this because you’re putting in all the time when nobody’s watching and the commitment that he’s made to it,” Krystkowiak said. “So I feel real happy for him that he was able to get going. It was a huge catalyst for our energy level to start with, I thought.”
It took Loveridge less than seven minutes to surpass the team-high 14 points he scored in last year’s 61-58 loss to BYU in Provo. The sophomore capped a 15-point first half by hitting his third 3-pointer with 13:01 remaining. The shot gave the Utes a 21-6 advantage.
“They came out with a lot of energy and shot the ball really well,” said BYU coach Dave Rose. “It’s a good team.”
The Cougars struggled to connect. They were just 2-of-13 from the field during Utah’s early outburst and went on to miss 15 of their first 18 shots.
Utah capitalized on the cold spell and eventually expanded its lead to 32-14 when freshman Parker Van Dyke connected on the second of back-to-back 3-point shots with 8:59 to go in the half.
BYU drew no closer than 11 before the intermission. Utah went on to lead 42-29 at break. The Utes shot 42.1 percent from the field (compared to 31.4 percent for the Cougars) and turned the ball over just four times.
Loveridge was Utah’s only scorer in double-figures in the opening half. Delon Wright had eight points, while Van Dyke and Jeremy Olsen had six apiece. Kyle Collinsworth and Eric Mika, who netted 10 and nine, respectively, were the only BYU players with more than five points at halftime.
The Utes continued to be stingy when the second half got started. They opened play with an 8-2 run and didn’t allow the Cougars to score from the field until Tyler Haws made a basket with 17:39 left to play to make it 50-33.
BYU eventually closed the gap to 13, but Utah reeled off seven straight points to take a 20-point lead — at 58-38 — to fend off the threat.
Before the game was complete, however, things got heated and the margin grew a little bit.
With 8:28 remaining, BYU center Mika was ejected after being whistled for a flagrant foul on Dallin Bachynski. Less than three minutes later, Utah took its biggest lead of the game when Wright made a layup to make it 73-50.
All in all, the night belonged to the Utes.
“It’s good for Utah fans. It’s good for people who are interested in our program — as any wins are,” Krystkowiak said. “But this one, obviously, has a little more credence to it and we’re going to enjoy it.”
Wight finished with 16 points, seven assists and six rebounds for the Utes. Bachynski finished with 11 points and eight rebounds.
Haws had a team-high 14 points for the Cougars. Collinsworth and Mika each wound up with 12.
Utah (9-1) returns to action Thursday at home against Texas State. BYU (8-4) visits Oregon on Saturday.