PROVO — Matt Carlino discovered his shot again at the perfect time for BYU.
On Saturday night, Utah made a point of focusing its defensive game plan on shutting down Brandon Davies and Tyler Haws from the opening tip. With neither player getting many clean looks at the basket, it fell on the Cougars’ point guard to give his team an offensive jolt.
Carlino found plenty of opportunities from the perimeter and made them count. He scored 19 points and made a career-high five 3-pointers to lead BYU to come-from-behind 61-58 victory over the Utes on Saturday night.
“They were playing off,” Carlino said. “They were giving us that shot the whole game. Those times I got up there and shot it.”
Carlino seemed like an unlikely candidate to deliver. He had not made more than one 3-pointer in a game all season and was battling a prolonged shooting slump.
With the Utes taking Davies and Haws out of the picture for the bulk of 40 minutes, however, there was no other choice but to shoot.
“I have been missing shots, but if you’re a shooter, you just have to keep shooting,” Carlino said. “They were laying off of us and stayed glued to Ty. Someone had to hit shots.”
Haws added 14 points and six rebounds and Davies chipped in 11 points and six rebounds for the Cougars (6-3), who rallied from a double-digit deficit in the second half.
Jordan Loveridge scored 14 points and Glen Dean added 10 for the Utes (6-3), who have lost 11 of the last 12 games in the series.
Carlino’s biggest shots were consecutive 3-pointers that tied the game at 52-52 with 4:55 left. Craig Cusick then gave the Cougars their first lead since the 14:11 mark of the first half when he buried a 3-pointer to make it 55-53 with 4:22 remaining.
The rally began when Davies dunked the ball and Carlino converted a steal into a layup after Utah took a 41-30 lead on jumper from Loveridge with 16:26 left in the second half.
“When you look at Haws and Davies having 50 to 60 percent of their offense, you can’t stop everything,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “I thought we had a pretty good plan. Cedric Martin was an absolute warrior guarding Haws, and our bigs did a fairly good job with the exception of not staying down on some pump fakes.”
Haws sealed the comeback with a layup and free throw to give BYU a 59-58 lead with 2:48 left. He added a pair of key free throws with 16.7 seconds remaining.
Justin Seymour had a chance to force overtime for Utah with a 3-pointer, but the ball bounced off the rim as time expired.
“They’re a different team than they were last year,” Haws said. “We knew it was going to be a battle. We just needed to keep fighting, even though we got down early. We just kept fighting the whole game.”
BYU shot just 31.1 percent from the field, but the Cougars held Utah to 25 percent shooting in the second half. BYU coach Dave Rose said switching to a zone defense in the second half made all the difference for the Cougars.
“Our zone was really good to us in the second half,” Rose said. “They did a great job of spacing the floor (in the first half) and spreading us out and then driving on us. When our help came, they would kick it. It was always late in the shot clock, and those were back breaker 3-pointers they would hit.”
Utah set an aggressive tone on both ends of the court throughout the first half. The Utes attacked the paint to create high-percentage shots. Defensively, Utah defenders converged on Haws and Davies, forcing the BYU offense to come from other sources.
The Cougars shot just 29 percent from the field before halftime. Utah shot 46.4 percent and scored 18 points in the paint to BYU’s six.
An 11-2 run pushed Utah’s lead into double digits, as it went up 31-19 on Dallin Bachynski’s layup with three minutes remaining before halftime.
The Cougars closed the gap when Haws made three free throws and Ian Harward put back a layup to make it 32-26. But Jason Washburn converted a three-point play with 51.3 seconds left to give Utah a 35-26 halftime lead.
“I was really impressed with our focus and energy coming out,” Krystkowiak said. “The first half was a lot of man (defense) and we got the ball in the paint. . In the second half, the zone affected us a little bit.”