By DAVID GARRET
Emotion, excitement, intensity, competitiveness, tradition, fun and the crowd are some of the things that come to Cougar seniors’ minds when reflecting on the BYU-Utah rivalry.
Senior guard Randy Reid said the atmosphere of the Utah games has made them some of the most fun games that he has been in.
“As I look back over the years, I think of some tremendous basketball games,” Reid said. “I think the fans have a way of creating such a hyped up and exciting atmosphere that, as a player, it really becomes contagious.”
Center Kenneth Roberts said the atmosphere is part of his best memories of the Utah games.
“I like feeling the excitement of the crowd and the buildup of the game — just standing there before the jump ball and feeling the emotions of everyone,” Roberts said.
For senior reserve center Jermaine Thompson, the game is just like any other game — he is trying to get in.
“I play a lot of the guys from the University of Utah during the summertime back in their gym down in Salt Lake,” Thompson said. “I guess it’s bragging rights and something to talk about. I don’t have any real rivalries with any team we play in the WAC or at all. I don’t feel the intensity in the Utah game anymore since I’m a player that doesn’t get a lot of playing time. It’s just another big game to get up for and show the coach what I can do, and hopefully he has the confidence in me, to put me in.”
Adding to the rivalry is the fact that most of the games in recent years have been important for both teams.
“The game usually, the past couple of years, has been a determining factor on who will win the WAC championships or not,” Reid said. “The teams are usually very evenly matched with great athletes, and I think that there are great coaches on both sides.”
Reid has a vivid recollection of his games in the Huntsman Center.
“You go into the Huntsman Center and it is a beautiful arena, all red. Then you are sitting in the locker room before the game, and you start hearing the band play, and you walk out and the whole student body is there. They’re cheering; they’re screaming at you; they’re yelling at you; they’re saying all kinds of things; they’re going crazy. It takes a special kind of courage and strength of character to be able to concentrate and block those things out in that kind of hostile environment. And no one can truly appreciate what it is like unless you are on the floor in that type of situation. When you have a chance to pull out a win, it is just one of the highlights of my athletic career.”
Reid has two favorite games from the rivalry. The first was a 96-65 thrashing of the Utes in the 1993-94 Conference tournament, a game in which Reid scored his career high of 26 points.
“We had our basketball team clicking on all cylinders,” Reid said. “It was a chance for us just to play really well. It was an unbelievable performance for our guys.”
The other game was a 64-62 win at Utah in the same year.
“Robbie (Reid) hit the shot at the end of the ball game to put away the victory from about 40 feet, and I just remember thinking ‘Oh my goodness, what in the world is he doing?’ and the shot went in and I just remember the feeling of having the chance of beating them on their home floor.”
Not all the memories are good ones, however. Roberts recalls his worst memory.
“I’d have to say it was my freshman year when they beat us here, because I was kind of a direct result of them hitting the last shot. I was guarding Josh Grant and he set a screen on Nate Call, who was guarding Jimmy Soto, and I didn’t hedge or help at all, and Jimmy Soto came over to my left and hit a nice little 15-footer. So I’ll always remember that one.”
Reid says the bad part of the rivalry is how it can bring out the worst in people.
“The rivalry can turn good people and make them say things and act a way that I don’t think they would normally act,” Reid said. “It is something I feel is tragic because you have players, coaches and programs that respect each other. I think it is sad when people carry that beyond the bounds of good sportsmanship in terms of profanity and just acting and treating other people in a way that’s just not right in any circumstances.”