In preparation for its season opener on Friday, University of Utah basketball head coach Larry Krystkowiak said his team spent an “awful lot of time” focusing on playing against a zone defense because Prairie View A&M traditionally plays that style. That wasn’t the look the Panthers gave the Runnin’ Utes all of Friday night though, instead it used a full court press to trap the Utes. While there were some mishaps, Utah walked away victors, 83-62.
“At this point in the season you don’t really know what a team’s MO is because you don’t have any film on them,” Krystkowiak said. “They can change from one year to the next.”
Sedrick Barefield and David Collette combined for 24 of Utah’s 39 first half points. Barefield put the Utes on the board first, but Collette got on a roll as he had 8 points, including a pair of dunks before being pulled due to two early fouls. Barefield, who finished the night 8-of-12 from the field and 1-of-3 from behind the arc, carried his team to the half as he went 6-of-6 from the floor including his lone shot from downtown.
“I’ve always just wanted to do what the team needs to win,” Barefield said. “Whether it’s taking five shots and getting everybody involved or taking 10 shots. Just whatever the team needs.”
Kyrstkowiak said the game turned to small ball quickly once Collette was taken off the floor. This was a minor blow to the Utes since Collette was helping the team get stops so the Utes could push the ball down the court. And Krystkowiak said, “When you get stops then they don’t have a press.”
In Chris Seeley’s first home opener as a Ute, he showed off his energy and ability to reach the hoop with a dunk to give Utah a 19-8 lead. Although Utah jumped out to that double-digit lead less than seven minutes into the game, pressure by the Panthers forced the Utes to turnover the ball — they had 12 turnovers in the first half — and that trimmed the Utah lead to 39-31 at the half.
According to Krystkowiak, there was nobody coming off the bench who had that look in their eye that they were capable of handling the press. During halftime, he told his players what needed to change when they took the court again, and he was pleased with the improvements Utah made in the second half.
“Coach just talked to us about taking care of the ball, making better decisions and really just locking in on defense,” Barefield said. “We knew what we were doing wrong.”
Utah shifted gears as it started the second half with a 19-0 run. Gabe Bealer and Tyler Rawson helped get the points flowing with some 3-pointers. An aggressive effort by Collette under the hoop for a bucket and Kolbe Caldwell driving to the basket put Utah up by 26 points with 13:35 left to play.
Buckets continued to fall for the Utes as they finished the night shooting 51.8 percent from the floor, and while the team would certainly like to keep those numbers up, it wants to trim down the amount of turnovers as it added seven more in the second half for a total of 19 for the game.
“Over the course of a long season you’re exposed to a lot of things,” Krystkowiak said. “And I think in the course of one game, I’m hoping that we grew a little bit in terms of our mindset.”
Next up, Utah will face Mississippi Valley State at the Huntsman Center on Monday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m.