PROVO – A former BYU player got to stick it to his old team Saturday afternoon. Isaac Neilson scored 26 points and Utah Valley University made 18 3-pointers as the Wolverines won their first game ever in the Marriott Center 114-101 over the Cougars.
Utah Valley made 18 of 37 3-pointers and took control of the game with a 15-0 run midway through the first half. BYU rallied and led 52-51 in the closing seconds of the half, but UVU’s Brandon Randolph banked in a 35-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer and the Wolverines would not trail again.
“Utah Valley came in and played as well as any team I can remember coming in here and shooting,” BYU head coach Dave Rose said. “They played on attack, aggressive, with confidence, and we had a really difficult time slowing them down. We got flustered. A real issue with our team in the last two games is composure. That is a real challenge for a young team.”
Neilson, who played 34 games for BYU during the 2014-15 season before sitting out last season due to the NCAA transfer rule, made 10 of 12 field goals, including both 3-pointers attempted, and had nine rebounds and two blocks. He had plenty of help as well, with Randolph and Conner Toolson chipping in 21 points each and Jordan Poydras coming off the bench to score 20.
Toolson, whose dad Andy was a star at BYU in the late 1980s and also played in the NBA, was the NJCAA Tournament MVP last season while helping the Salt Lake Bruins win the JUCO title. He made 4 of 8 3-pointers against BYU Saturday as UVU took advantage of a porous Cougar defense, hitting a blistering 52.9 percent from the field. The Wolverines scored 60 points in the second half.
BYU had led 16-11 after three free throws by TJ Haws, a former teammate of Toolson’s at Lone Peak High School. But Utah Valley, sparked by a Randolph 3-pointer, scored 15 straight in just 1:22 of clock time to take a 26-16 lead with 13:57 to go in the first half.
The Cougars battled back behind the inside game of Eric Mika and the outside shooting of Nick Emery. The two sophomores combined for 14 points the last six minutes of the half to bring BYU within 51-50 with 45 seconds left in the half. After a UVU turnover, Braiden Shaw rebounded a Haws miss and put it in the hole to make it 52-51. Randolph then walked the ball up court and baked home the long ball to give the Wolverines the halftime lead.
After intermission, BYU tied it briefly on a bucket inside by Mika. But Neilson matched it with a jumper on the other end to make it 56-54 and Utah transfer Kenneth Ogbe hit a 3-pointer to put UVU ahead by five. The Cougars would get no closer than two the rest of the game and when Mika fouled out with 4:14 left and the visitors up by 14, any Cougar thoughts of a rally went out the window.
Emery had one of his best days as a Cougar, the sophomore pouring in 37 points on 15 of 28 shooting. Mika made 8 of 8 field goals as part of his 22-point night, but the rest of the BYU team shot just 14 of 42 from the floor, a paltry 33 percent. Haws was 1 of 10 from the floor.
Next up for BYU (4-2) is an instate matchup against Utah State on Wednesday, Nov. 30, at the Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on BYUtv and Cougar IMG Sports Network, 102.7 FM/1160 AM and BYU Radio – Sirius XM 143.
The Wolverines (5-1) have won four straight since a 23-point loss at Gonzaga. UVU next plays at Washington State Wednesday night.
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