PROVO — Perhaps in the 10-year history of the series with BYU, Southern Utah had one of its best teams heading into its contest with the Cougars Friday night.

This year, the T-Birds entered the game with a 3-1 record with wins over Utah of the Mountain West Conference and Idaho of the Western Athletic Conference.

Southern Utah guard Steve Barnes, playing in his third meeting with the Cougars, thought the T-Birds a better game than they did in the 80-61 loss.

"I know last year we didn't have the momentum and we didn't have the confidence or the chemistry as well. So this year we thought we would perform a little bit better," he said. "Last year and this year, we pretty much got it handed to us."

The T-Birds (3-2) entered the game averaging 71.2 points a game, while shooting 52.9 percent from the field and 45.6 percent from the three-point line.

BYU (3-1) held Southern Utah to 41.3 percent shooting from the field for the game, including 33.3 percent in the first half.

"No question I thought we would play much better than we did," SUU coach Bill Evans said. "We are going to take this thing and get much better because of it. I didn't come in here (the locker room) and start throwing things around or kicking or ranting and raving. We got beat because we didn't play like we needed to play."

Meanwhile, the Cougars shot 51.6 percent from the field. They hit eight of their first 10 shots to start the game, and led 23-6 with 12:08 left in the first half.

The Cougars started the second half equally as strong as the first by scoring points on nine of their first 11 possessions in the second half to lead by a game-high 31 points at 61-30 with 12:33 left in the game.

"It's a beautiful thing when the ball goes in the hole, you just hope that it's your team that's doing it," Barnes said. "BYU had it tonight and they just went off."

The Cougars ended up shooting 56.7 percent from from the field in the first half, while the T-Birds struggled to develop consistency. In one stretch in the first half, the T-Birds turned the ball over on seven straight possessions, and didn't score a field goal for five minutes.

Only three times in the first half did the T-Birds score on back-to-back possessions.

"During the first 10 minutes we were on attack," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "Defensively, we had a good mindset and contested many of their shots."

The T-Birds are now 0-10 against the Cougars all-time, and Saturday's 19-point setback was the first loss of 20 points or less in the last six games with BYU.


E-mail: jhinton@desnews.com