Out and Runnin’: Men’s hoops knocks off Whitman in exhibition opener

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The Runnin’ Utes finally got to play against someone other than themselves Saturday, beating Whitman College 77-54 in their first exhibition of the year.

Squaring off against the outmatched Missionaries, Ute head coach Ray Giacoletti emptied his bench, giving at least 12 minutes to 10 different players.

One of the players getting extended playing time was starting center Chris Jackson, who has been hobbled by a back injury for much of the last two seasons. But the senior said he was back to 100 percent, and he made good on the claim Saturday, going 6-for-6 from the field en route to 12 points and five rebounds in 17 minutes.

“I feel so much better than last year,” Jackson said. “It was nice to get the chance to get out and run the floor a little bit.”

Jackson wasn’t the only one who got out and ran, as the Utes played an overwhelming style of up-tempo basketball.

In the first half, the star was senior swingman Bryant Markson, who zipped past Whitman for 17 points, most of which came on the fast break.

Markson finished the night with a game-high 21 points on 10-of-13 shooting.

While Jackson and Markson had no trouble making their shots, the newcomers did have a tough time getting the ball to go in. The Utes played five players who were seeing their first action in a Utah uniform, and they all seemed to have a case of nerves in their debuts.

The first-timers were 0-for-7 from the field to start the game, a drought that ended with freshman Lawrence Borha’s layup 10-and-a-half minutes into the first half.

For the night, the newcomers went 9-of-31 from the field, including a 0-for-7 performance from freshman starter Shaun Green.

But Giacoletti doesn’t put a lot of importance on first-game jitters.

“He did all the other right things,” said Giacoletti, pointing to Green’s nine rebounds and two steals. “I see him every day in practice, and he can shoot the basketball. (So) when he’s open, he needs to shoot it.”

It was also Ute fans’ first chance to see highly touted center Luke Nevill in action. The Australian freshman proved to be a tough presence down low, racking up two blocked shots and six rebounds to go along with 11 points.

“I hadn’t seen that much aggression from Luke (before). I loved it,” Markson said. “He came out and played well.”

The Utes will get one more chance to get the preseason kinks out when Northwest Nazarene visits the Huntsman Center on Nov. 14 for an exhibition match-up.

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