Utah earned one of the biggest wins in program history last week, though it only marked the start of a particularly challenging stretch.
Utah (6-1) snapped then-No. 8 Wichita State's 35-game regular-season winning streak with a 69-68 overtime home win last Wednesday. It ended a 14-game losing streak against top 10 teams dating to a 51-49 win over top-ranked Alabama on Dec. 30, 2002, and also propelled Utah to its highest ranking since 2004-05.
"This is huge for us and huge for our program," said guard Delon Wright, who had 13 points, seven assists and six rebounds while playing all 45 minutes. "This is the type of game we have always lost in the past and this time we found a way to get it done."
The Utes turn their attention to getting over the hump in Provo, where they have dropped seven in a row since a 72-58 victory Jan. 31, 2005. Five of those losses came by 12-plus points.
BYU, which leads the series 129-126, has won 42 of its last 44 at home in nonconference play, though both losses came in its only matchups with ranked teams.
"It's a great environment. Their arena gets revved up for the rivalry game," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "There is always a lot riding on the game with tons of emotion from players and fans. It's a hostile place so you have to show patience and poise. You can't get caught up when momentum isn't going your way. Home court makes a difference. We saw it last week so we'll see what it does for them."
BYU (7-2) had won 11 of 12 meetings prior to Utah's 81-64 home victory Dec. 14. The Cougars were held to 32.8 percent shooting with their three starting guards going a combined 9 for 37 from the floor.
Utah's Jordan Loveridge scored 21 points, but he's missed the last three games with a knee injury and is expected to be sidelined for a month after undergoing surgery.
The Utes are tasked with slowing down another potent BYU offense, which leads the nation with 94.6 points per game. Utah is limiting opponents to an average of 56.9 points.
The Cougars scored 53 second-half points in Saturday's 90-70 win over Hawaii as Tyler Haws scored 30 to raise his average to 24.4. Kyle Collinsworth had 19 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for the school's first triple-double since Michael Smith in 1988, and Chase Fischer added 20 points.
BYU has scored at least 85 points in each game and four players are averaging at least 13.1.
"With this group, I think consistently we have a really good group of scorers," coach Dave Rose told the school's official website. "And I think we have some really good scorers on the bench who we haven't been able to find a lot of time for, so I hope we can keep their confidence up because we are going to need all those guys."
Haws and Collinsworth each shot 3 for 11 in last season's meeting.
These are two of Division I's better rebounding teams with Utah owning a plus-10.3 margin while BYU is at plus-8.4.