The traditional basketball adage is games are won and lost in the fourth quarter. But in the University of Utah men’s basketball team’s 95-71 victory over LSU, the game was won in the first.
The Runnin’ Utes shot a blistering 70 percent from the field in the first quarter, including making nine of their first 10 shots. By the end of the period, they led by nearly 20 points, 30-11. Justin Bibbins and Sedrick Barefield led the team with 8 points apiece in that quarter.
“We just wanted to come out with energy tonight. That’s the biggest thing that coach talked about. I think we did a good job of that and we just have to work on maintaining that energy for 40 minutes,” Barefield said.
Barefield thinks it was one of the team’s two or three best games of the season when it comes to having fun and playing as a team. While Barefield led the team in points with 17, the four other starters also scored in double figures, Bibbins had 16 points, Tyler Rawson and David Collete finished with 12 and Gabe Bealer added 13, as Utah was able to move the ball around and create scoring opportunities for everyone on the team.
Bealer said the Utes’ key to going on a big run during the first quarter was as simple as guarding the other team.
The following three quarters were relatively close. Utah outscored LSU 65-60 and the lead hovered right around 20 points for the majority of the game.
After the game, head coach Larry Krystkowiak said outside of a six-minute period before halftime, his team gave a “dang near-perfect performance.”
“There were three over-dribbling steals that went the other direction. That kind of take the air out of us right before halftime,” Krystkowiak said.
Krystkowiak feels at this point in the season, he trusts his players to lead themselves.
“This time of year, it’s kind of like getting through driver training with your kids. Just give them the keys,” Krystkowiak said.
This Utah team took those keys and cruised to its best statistical game of the season. The Utes ended up with a number of season highs in various categories. They ended up shooting 57.9 percent from the field during the game, eclipsing their previous high of 54.9 percent against Cal. Their 95 points were also a season-high, their previous high of 91 coming against Mississippi Valley State in the second game of the season.
The Utes will face off against Saint Mary’s on Wednesday, March 21, in the quarterfinals of the NIT.