SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- Nick Jacobson scored 23 points and Tim Frost added 21 as 23rd-ranked Utah held on for its ninth straight victory, a 71-64 Mountain West Conference triumph over intrastate rival Brigham Young.
Making its first appearance of the season in the USA Today/ESPN poll, Utah (21-4, 9-1 MWC) opened a two-game lead over BYU (18-7, 7-3) with four games remaining.
Jacobson and Frost helped the Utes improve to 64-2 in home conference games over the last nine seasons. Utah ran its home winning streak in the series to nine games as the duo combined to shoot 14-of-22.
Utah took a 31-26 lead into halftime and extended its advantage to 51-40 with 9:24 remaining on a jumper by Frost.
But the Cougars kept chipping away, using a 9-2 run to reduce their deficit to 53-49 with 6:55 to play. They seemed to lose any momentum they had shortly thereafter when Travis Hansen's pass was stolen by Jacobson, who found Britton Johnsen for an uncontested layup and a 62-53 lead with four minutes left.
Despite the costly turnover, the Cougars continued to keep the game close as Kevin Woodberry, who started the 9-2 run with a 3-pointer, hit another shot from beyond the arc, which made it 63-59 with 1:40 to go.
But after Woodberry stole the ball at midcourt, the 55 percent foul shooter was fouled. He split his two free throws and BYU was forced to foul the rest of the way.
The Utes clinched the win with eight straight free throws.
Hansen and Rafael Araujo had 13 points apiece for BYU, which has not won at Utah since January 8, 1994.
The Utes overcame 13 turnovers in the first half and 20 overall to sweep the season series from their oldest rival for the first time in three years.
However, Utah, made up for its sloppiness by converting 18-of-20 free throws in the final 20 minutes and 23-of-25 overall.
Jacobson had 10 points in the first half as the Utes' largest lead was 31-22 with 2:09 remaining. Utah used a 13-6 spurt to overcome a one-point deficit with 7 1/2 minutes remaining as Frost, Richard Chaney and Jacobson drilled 3-pointers.
In the first half, the Utes shot 53 percent (10-of-19) and 67 percent (6-of-9) from beyond the arc, before slumping to 38.5 percent (10-of-26) in the second half.
The Cougars were done in by sub-par shooting from Hansen. Hansen, a 42 percent shooter and their leading scorer, was just 3-of-12 from the floor. But he still managed to become the 35th player in school history to reach 1,000 points.
Johnson, the reigning Mountain West Conference Player of the Year, also struggled. Battling foul trouble, he played just 22 minutes and shot 3-of-7.