PROVO — They've played 248 times, spanning 100 years.

During that century of basketball, the BYU-Utah rivalry has spawned overtime thrillers, buzzer-beaters, blowouts, upsets, huge comebacks, controversial moments, superstars, heroes, goats, memorable characters, memorable coaches and games with conference championship implications.

The next chapter, and next century, of this rivalry tips off tonight (7 p.m., The mtn.) when No. 12 BYU (20-2, 5-1 Mountain West Conference) hosts Utah (10-10, 3-3).

"We have a long history with (the Utes). It's a huge one for us," said Cougar senior center Chris Miles. "It's different than any game that you play in. For our two programs, it's a huge rivalry. It's been going on forever."

Through it all, amazingly, only two games separate BYU and Utah in the all-time series, which began on Jan. 23, 1909, in Provo. The Utes own a narrow 125-123 edge over the Cougars.

"We're down two?" Miles replied when a reporter informed him which program held the overall lead. Then he smiled. "Okay. We'll try to bring more equality to the balance."

As BYU looks to slice that deficit in half tonight, Miles isn't surprised the series has been so close.

"Knowing the types of teams that have come and gone, I think it says a ton (about the rivalry)," he said. "There's been some really good teams from both schools. It goes to show that both programs are really good programs, and they really want to beat each other."

Over the years, the BYU-Utah hoops rivalry has been a series of streaks. Typically, when one program has been up, the other has been down.

From 1995-2000, the Utes won 12 consecutive games over BYU. During part of that span, Utah was ranked in the top 10 while BYU was suffering through some of its worst seasons in history. For example, the Cougars endured a disastrous 1-25 campaign in 1996-97; the Utes advanced to the NCAA Final Four in 1998.

BYU eventually emerged from those dark times, but it slipped back into futility when Miles was a freshman in 2004-05, as the Cougars posted a 9-21 mark. That was the same year the Utes went 29-6 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16.

Currently, BYU has won five of the last six games against Utah. The Cougars, who have claimed three straight Mountain West Conference championships, are highly ranked and sitting in first place in the league.

Utah has a mediocre record yet boasts surprising wins over Illinois, Louisiana State and UNLV.

Miles said no matter which team appears to have the upper hand, the games are usually competitive.

"We weren't the best team my freshman year, and we had a lead (over Utah) with two minutes to go in the game," said Miles. "It's a rivalry game."

"No matter the records, it's always a good game," said Cougar guard Jackson Emery. "I love the atmosphere. Hopefully we have a packed house (Saturday night)."

BYU coach Dave Rose is 6-3 against the Utes as a head coach, but he lost plenty of games to Utah as an assistant, particularly during his first few years in Provo.

"I've been involved with quite a few of these games," said Rose. "It's an exciting game between two teams that play really hard. It's a great rivalry, one of the best in the nation."

Cougar freshman Tyler Haws will play in his first BYU-Utah game tonight, but the Alpine native knows all about what it means.

"I'm excited. It's obviously a game I grew up going to and watching," he said. "They're intense, and guys go after each other."

His father, Marty, a former Cougar whose career ended 20 years ago, was a part of several unforgettable BYU-Utah contests.

"I've watched a few of those games. He has the tapes," said Tyler. "It's always a crazy game. It's a big game. We need to be prepared and ready to go. It's the type of game where anything can happen."

GAME NOTES: Both BYU and Utah are coming off losses. The Cougars saw their 15-game winning streak snapped in a 76-72 loss at No. 23 New Mexico Wednesday. The Utes fell at Wyoming, 75-69. ... A couple dozen tents have been set up by students outside the Marriott Center in order to get the best seats for the game. ... Tonight's matchup will feature two of the best freshmen in the MWC — BYU's Haws and Utah's Marshall Henderson. ... The Cougars will be wearing white uniforms with blue and pink trim — and pink shoes — to promote the annual Coaches vs. Cancer awareness weekend.

Utes-Cougars on the air

Utah (10-10, 3-3 MWC) at BYU (20-2, 5-1)

Tonight, 7 p.m.

Marriott Center

TV: The mtn. Radio: 700 AM, 1160 AM, 102.7 FM

e-mail: jeffc@desnews.com