Second-half surge: Runnin’ Utes pull away late to beat Rhode Island

Once again, the Runnin’ Utes had their alarm clock go off late. But they still managed to wake up in time to get a win, as they knocked off Rhode Island 66-50 Tuesday night at the Huntsman Center.

Senior swingman Bryant Markson led the Utes (2-0) with 17 points, going 6-for-12 from the field and a perfect 5-for-5 from the line.

After trailing the Rams (1-1) 24-23 at the break, Ute head coach Ray Giacoletti went with a younger lineup in the second half and found good results.

“For a long period in the second half there were three freshmen and Johnnie (Bryant), a sophomore,” Giacoletti said. “So a lot of new guys out there were asked to be efficient in the tough part of the game.”

Among the youngsters who made big impacts was Shaun Green, making the first start of his career. In a stretch of 40 seconds, Green was instrumental in the Utes going from a four-point lead to an insurmountable double-digit advantage.

With Utah up 46-42, the 6-foot-7-inch Green blocked a jumper by 6-foot-10-inch Darrell Harris, leading to a possession going the other way.

“I was just trying to foul him and send him to the line,” Green said. “But I blocked it so it turned out better.”

Following the block, Markson got a three-point play off of a dunk and foul, then Green got the ball back after bouncing it off of a Ram, leading to a backcourt violation.

On the ensuing possession Green took matters into his own hands, banking a 3-pointer in from the top of the key to give the Utes a 10-point lead.

Rhode Island would never threaten again, as the Rams went ice cold from the field. They had taken a 42-41 lead on a 3-pointer by Will Daniels with 9:46 to go in the game, but only managed one more field goal between that point and the 0:50 mark.

In all, the Utes finished on a 25-8 run, leading to their second-straight double-digit victory to start the season.

Green finished with 11 points, nine of which came from beyond the 3-point arc.

“We’re going to him when we’re trying to make a run, so that tells you what kind of freshman he is,” Giacoletti said.

Rhode Island was led by Jimmy Baron, who had 16 points, going 4-for-5 from 3-point range. The Rams were without starting point guard Tyrese Sullivan for most of the game, after the senior went down with an apparent ankle injury 12 minutes into the first half.

After playing their first two games in the friendly Huntsman Center confines, Utah will now head out on the road for three out of their next four. They start the swing on Saturday night when they visit Weber State in Ogden. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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