Utah Valley University shocked the crowd with its 114–101 upset against BYU in the UCCU Crosstown Crash Saturday night in the Marriott Center.
“It’s one of the greatest nights of my life,” said UVU junior Isaac Neilson, a transfer student from BYU. “It means a lot to me and it means a lot to our team. Our whole mantra for this team is ‘shock the world,’ and I think we did that tonight. I’m very proud of our guys and our coaching staff and all that we did. We just hope to continue that the rest of the season.”
Neilson led the Wolverines in an overwhelming offensive performance with 26 points and nine rebounds.
“Our whole mantra for this team is ‘shock the world,’ and I think we did that tonight.” —Isaac Neilson, UVU junior
The Wolverines came out hot-handed Saturday night. From the beginning, the Wolverines were using threes as their go-to shots. Of UVU’s first nine baskets of the game, eight of those shots we threes. And it wasn’t one specific player who was making the threes — six players contributed. In total, the Wolverines shot 48.6 percent from behind the arc, making 18-of-37 threes.
On the other end of the court, BYU struggled in the three department. Only two players made a three: BYU sophomore Nick Emery was 5-for-12 and freshman Colby Leifson went 1-for-1. The team shot 28.6 percent from behind the arc.
“They did a great job of attacking us,” said BYU head coach Dave Rose. “Any time a team makes 18 threes, they have a pretty good chance of winning a game.”
The Wolverines took the lead just five minutes into the game. They only let that lead slip once, which was short lived.
BYU crawled its way back to the top with a couple of baskets by sophomore Braiden Shaw and a 3-pointer by Emery. They finally took the lead with less than 30 seconds left in the first half.
But UVU’s Brandon Randolph wasn’t letting the Cougars go into the locker room leading after UVU had led the majority of the first half. Randolph banked a 3-pointer at the buzzer giving the Wolverines a 54–52 lead at the half.
“It gave us some momentum,” Randolph said. “I turned over the ball two times, so I wanted to make up those turnovers for my team. I let my team down those two times and I just wanted to get up shot up at the half.”
In the second half, the Wolverines once again dominated and poor Cougar defense — a defense Emery called “embarrassing” — allowed the Wolverines to widen their lead.
“This won’t be the best moment we have at Utah Valley. We have so much work we have to do and we can become such a better team, but this is a special night for us and we’re grateful for the opportunity we had to play the game.” —Mark Pope, UVU head basketball coach
“The last eight minutes our guys caught a glimpse that maybe we had a chance to win this game and every single time out all we talked about is we never want this night to end,” said UVU head coach Mark Pope, a former BYU assistant coach under Rose. …”We wanted to keep playing because you don’t get this night every game. Our guys responded and stayed together and took care of themselves and it was good.”
The game was a major change from last year’s matchup where the Cougars beat the Wolverines 85–54.
Rose blames his team’s youth for what happened Saturday night, saying that players the team relies on didn’t come through.
“We’ve got to find the guys who can consistently perform at the level we need them to perform at game after game after game,” Rose said. “With young, inexperienced guys, usually that’s something that you see. You see some inconsistency and hopefully we can find a group that can play a lot better together than we did tonight.”
Emery led BYU with 37 points and BYU sophomore Eric Mika added 22 points and five rebounds.
UVU had multiple players scoring in the 20s led by Neilson (26 points), Randolph (21 points and 14 assists), Conner Toolson (21 points) and Jordan Poydras (20 points).
“This won’t be the best moment we have at Utah Valley,” Pope said. “We have so much work we have to do and we can become such a better team, but this is a special night for us and we’re grateful for the opportunity we had to play the game.”