On a crisp Saturday afternoon on Nov. 26, 2016, I walked into the press box at LaVell Edwards Stadium on the campus of BYU, not knowing a massive upset was about to take place.
See, I was writing for KSL.com at that time. And they forced me to make a decision: cover the Old Wagon Wheel rivalry football game between Utah State and BYU. Or, cover the Utah Valley at BYU basketball game. Technically I could have covered both. But, I had some doubt about whether or not the basketball game would be worth my time. So, I chose the football game.
So, as I walked into the press box, I heard a lot of chatter. Distance at first. And then it grew louder.
“What is going on with BYU?” “Is Utah Valley really going to win?” “The Wolverines can’t miss.”
And so it went. So, imagine my surprise when I opened my phone to see Utah Valley leading late in the second half. That’s when I opened up the ESPN 960 app to listen to my good friend Jim McCulloch and his call in what was turning out to be one of the biggest upsets of the season.
“Conner Toolson for three…BOTTOM.” “Brandon Randolph for three…BOTTOM!”
The Wolverines hit 18 3-pointers that afternoon at the Marriott Center. 18!
“UVU defeats BYU at the Marriott Center on the campus of BYU. Final score, UVU 114, BYU 1-0-1.”
And it was a pleasant night in the LaVell Edwards Stadium press box listening to BYU beat writers talk about their shock at Utah Valley’s upset win over the Cougars. I sat, watching a football, listening to these beat writers, with a huge smile on my face.
Fast forward five years. Dec. 1, 2021.
Utah Valley had lost three straight to the Cougars. There was the 27-point debacle in 2017. Then a 10-point loss in Mark Pope’s final season at UVU. No game in 2019-20. And then the COVID game and an 82-60 BYU win on Nov. 28, 2020.
I had sat in the media section in two of those three contests. So, on Dec. 1, 2021, I decided I was going to go to the UCCU Center as a fan. No media coverage. Just enjoy what was expected to be a packed house in Orem. I had to. it doesn’t happen often where Utah Valley sells out the UCCU Center.
So, I wanted to take it all in. Especially considering my dad and good friend were coming with me. And both are BYU fans. My dad is a BYU alum. So, there was some trash talk on the line.
I will admit, walking into the UCCU Center, I wasn’t feeling too confident about an upset. With great shame, I have to admit I told my dad and good friend that BYU should win by double figures. How were the Wolverines going to slow down Alex Barcello and company? The Cougars already had double-digit wins over San Diego State, Utah and Oregon and beat a good Cleveland State squad.
There was just no way it was going to be close. Just no way an upset would happen. Trey Woodbury was out for the season. So, I figured there wasn’t enough scoring to go around. Sure, Fardaws Aimaq was going to have a big night simply because he is Big Maple. But, that is where it all ended.
And when Te’Jon Lucas knocked down a pair of free throws with 4:13 to make it a 7-point game, I figured it was all over.
But, after that point, something magical happened inside the UCCU Center. Justin Harmon and Fardaws Aimaq got a look in their eye. A look that seemed to say, ‘we’re not going to lose. Not tonight.”
Harmon and Aimaq scored the next eight points for the Wolverines. And all of a sudden, Utah Valley had a 52-51 lead with 44 seconds to play.
Was it going to happen again?
On BYU’s next possession, Caleb Lohner’s jumper missed and Aimaq pulled down one of his 22 rebounds.
The 6-10 WAC Player fo the Year then found Tim Fuller for a two-handed flush! 54-51 Utah Valley with 17 seconds to play.
I jumped out of my seat screaming, to the anger of the BYU fans around me including my dad and good friend.
It was happening. Don’t foul and hit free throws and walk out with the biggest win in program history.
Well, Utah Valley did foul and did miss a free throw.
Seneca Knight hit a pair of free throws to make it a 1-point game. And after Aimaq made 1-of-2 free throws with eight seconds remaining, Spencer Johnson sent the game into overtime with a layup.
It was one of those moments where you feel like the air left the building. Utah Valley had the upset win in its grasp. It was there. And then, Spencer Johnson and BYU tore your heart out.
But Aimaq and Utah Valley saved their best for last.
Caleb Lohner’s layup to play in the extra frame gave BYU a 59-57 lead.
And then the magic happened once again.
“Fardaws Aimaq from the top of the key…BOTTOM!”
Aimaq’s 3-pointer was the start of a 10-0 run and the rest is history.
And the celebration was on as Utah Valley upset No. 12 BYU 72-65 at the UCCU Center.
Celebrate on @UVUmbb pic.twitter.com/4hLBmvxfoi
— WACHoopsDigest (@WACHoopsDigest) December 2, 2021
Celebrate on Utah Valley men’s basketball, celebrate on.
Perhaps there will be another flashback in 2023. Except maybe this time it will come once again at the Marriott Center.