LAS VEGAS, Nevada - Andre Miller scored 13 of his 19 points in the first half as eighth-ranked Utah extended its school-record winning streak to 20 games with an 81-62 victory over Brigham Young in the quarterfinals of the Western Athletic Conference tournament.
The Utes (25-4) will play Tulsa in Friday's semifinals. Utah, which ran the table in the WAC Pacific Division, defeated its archrivals three times this season by a combined 65 points. The Utes have won eight straight games between the schools to move within two victories of evening the all-time series.
"I don't know a thing about Tulsa," said Utes coach Rick Majerus. "We played against (Michael) Ruffin and (Eric) Coley, but I don't know about the rest of the kids."
Silester Rivers scored 23 points for BYU (12-16), which made a three-win improvement from last season. The Cougars fell behind 41-26 at halftime and fell apart after the Utes had a seven-point possession early in the second half.
Unlike the first two games between the teams, BYU hovered within striking distance and trailed 43-34 on a dunk by Rivers with 16:42 to play. Hanno Mottola hit a jumper for the Utah and, after a miss by the Cougars, Alex Jensen was fouled attempting a 3-pointer, starting BYU's collapse.
Nathan Cooper was called for the foul and also whistled for a technical. Jensen sank 2-of-3 free throws and Mottola made the pair from the technical. After a TV timeout, Tony Harvey drilled a 3-pointer to give the Utes a 52-34 bulge with 15:24 to go, effectively ending the game.
"That pretty much sealed our fate, but I am not sure what happened," said Cougars coach Steve Cleveland. "I never really did get an answer from anybody."
"That was a huge play," admitted Jensen. "I think it took the air out (of them) and was the turning point."
The Cougars got no closer than 15 points the rest of the way, while Utah took its largest lead at 81-52 on two free throws by Jeremy Killion with 3:43 to play. BYU scored the final 10 points to make the final score respectable.
Utah established control from the outset, scoring the first 11 points. Nate Althoff had the final four in the run, including a dunk 3:35 into the game. A 3-pointer by Ryan Christensen pulled the Cougars within 17-9, but Miller started and ended an 8-0 burst with layups, giving Utah a 25-9 advantage with 9:55 remaining.
The Utes shot 59 percent (16-of-27) from the field in the first half en route to a 41-26 lead after 20 minutes. Mottola finished with 14 points and Phil Cullen netted 12 and seven rebounds off the bench for Utah, which had a 34-22 rebounding edge.
Mark Bigelow had 14 points for the Cougars, who shot 43 percent (20-of-47) from the field.
"They are a real physical team," said Bigelow. "They are fundamentally sound and they work hard and they just do things well."