After returning home to Salt Lake City for the first time in a few weeks, the Runnin’ Utes hosted the Tulsa Golden Hurricane and came away with a 69-64 win.
With the win, Utah has improved to 3-0 at home and 4-3 overall for the season as they dropped Tulsa to a 5-3 record. Junior Jayce Johnson led the Utes and recorded the second double-double of his career, posting 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Both Gach led the way in the first half, scoring 8 points and helping Utah take a 23-17 lead into the halftime intermission. The first-half showcased both Tulsa and Utah playing tremendous defense as the Utes were held to just 35 percent shooting in the half, while Tulsa was held to 26 percent shooting that included shooting 0/15 from three-point range.
“I felt like that it didn’t have to do with defense, because we missed a good amount of wide open shots and so did Tulsa. We played our zone for most of the game, which I felt helped out our three-point defense. It’s just one of those games that we have seen before, things were really difficult in the first half, but we came out of the locker room in the second half as a different team,” said coach Larry Krystkowiak.
The Utes outscored the Golden Hurricane by one point, 47-46, in the second half which would prove to be too much for the Hurricane to handle. Utah had timely three-point shots, featuring Sedrick Barefield draining 4/6 shots with 20 minutes left to play. Both Barefield and Gach finished the game scoring 15 points each.
Ultimately the game was decided through key plays in key moments. “We made a couple plays in the second half that helped us come out on top. I thought we got out in transition well, held them to zero for fifteen in first-half three-point shooting, then they were five for fifteen in the second half,” Krystkowiak said.
Utah had a comfortable lead in the second half when they were up by 11 at most, however, that wasn’t enough to put away Tulsa for good. Tulsa managed to cut the deficit to three points after going on an 11-4 run.
The Utes responded well to this run with a run of their own, pushing the lead back up to 11 points in their favor and ultimately sealing the game.
Tulsa did cut the deficit to five points with about 19 seconds remaining in the game, but it wasn’t enough for them to make the comeback win as Utah was flawless at the free-throw line late in the game, shooting 5/5.
The Utes will be back in action next Saturday, Dec. 8, as Utah takes on BYU in the Beehive Classic. Tip-off between the Utes and Cougars is set for 12 p.m. at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City.