Cougars’ comeback falls short against Utah

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Utah forward Jakob Poeltl (42) shoots as BYU center Corbin Kaufusi (44) defends in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014, in Provo, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Utah forward Jakob Poeltl (42) shoots as BYU center Corbin Kaufusi (44) defends in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014, in Provo, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Delon Wright and the No. 13 ranked Utah Utes beat the Cougars 65-61 before a soldout crowd Wednesday night, winning in the Marriott Center for the first time since 2005.

Wright paced the Utes with 18 points, 11 rebounds and three assists and added two blocks and two steals to cap his impressive night. Tyler Haws scored 23 points on nine-of-22 shooting to lead the Cougars, who suffered their third loss of the season.

“We just didn’t make buckets,” a deflated Haws said. “They slow the game down and kind of take the air out of the ball a little bit. We just didn’t make shots when we needed to.”

The Cougars started the night off rocky even before the opening tip. Senior forward Nate Austin appeared to injure his hamstring while stretching as officials were readying to put the ball in play. Austin played for one defensive series before subbing out. He would not return.

“Nate was stretching at the tip and felt his hamstring pop,” coach Dave Rose said. “He asked to come out right then, (but) they were in the middle of tipping the ball, so the first possession he played with whatever (issue he had) with his hamstring.”

Although the Cougars fell behind by as much as 13 early, they were able to make up the difference on a 14-2 run to close out the first half up 31-30, a stretch where Utah went 8:12 without a made field goal. The Cougars potentially could have been up by more, but the Utes were the beneficiary of a strange shot clock violation non-call. With 7:23 left in the half, game officials awarded Utah’s Chris Reyes two points, even though his bucket appeared to come well after the 35-second clock hit zero. Fans’ noise drowned out the shot clock violation buzzer, which went unnoticed by the officials.

“The one ref told me we should hook it up to the PA system so the buzzer would be louder,” Rose said.

The play would not be reviewed.

The Utes were able to puncture holes in BYU’s momentum in the second half, which dissipated slowly over the first 14 minutes. With the Utes up 56-47 with 6:06 to go, Wright stole the ball from a transitioning Haws, dribbled around his back to avoid a closing defender and finished with an emphatic dunk.

The Cougars were able to claw their way back to a 62-57 deficit thanks to several steals and 3-point shots from senior guard Anson Winder. A Kyle Collinsworth put-back cut the Utah lead to three with 1:13 remaining in the game. Haws then had the chance to tie the game with 30.1 seconds left,┬ábut his attempted three was too strong and corralled in by Utah. Later down 65-61 with 15.8 left on the clock, Collinsworth misfired on a three and Utah’s Wright swatted away a desperate put back for the exclamation point.

The Cougars fall to 7-3 on the season with the loss. They travel to the Dee Events Center in Ogden to play another in-state rival in Weber State this Saturday at 7:00 p.m.

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