Runnin’ Utes squash Sun Devils

Senior forward Renan Lenz jumps to catch a ball at Sunday night’s game at the Huntsman Center. Photo by Erin Burns.
Senior forward Renan Lenz jumps to catch a ball at Sunday night’s game at the Huntsman Center. Photo by Erin Burns.
Coming off a heartbreaking overtime loss to Arizona last week, the Utes showed they wanted nothing to do with an extra session Sunday night against Arizona State.
Utah seized control early with a dominating first half performance and was able to finish off the Sun Devils 86-63 at the Huntsman Center. Arizona State’s Shaquielle McKissic scored the game’s opening bucket, but from there it was all the Utes. They responded to McKissic’s field goal by going on a 20-4 run that spanned nearly six minutes to jump out to a 20-6 lead at 13:08 mark of the first half.
During the run, Utah played some of its best basketball of the season. Princeton Onwas got his first start in conference play and set the tone early on the defensive end. Two minutes into the contest, Onwas met the Sun Devils’ leading scorer Jahii Carson in the air for highlight-worthy block that energized the team and the crowd of 10,401, sparking the run.
“Princeton’s block was a turning point,” said Utes head coach Larry Krystkowiak. “He really brought the emotion and it got the crowd going. He’s quite the weapon for us.”
Other Utes got into the blocking action, including Dallin Bachynski against his older brother, Jordan. At the 13:20 mark of the half, Utah had as many blocks as Arizona State had points — six. The Utes finished the game with a season-high 12 blocked shots.
On the offensive side, Utah got a spark from an unlikely source. Senior Brazilian big man Renan Lenz had two special visitors for Sunday’s game, as his parents made the trip from Brazil to watch their son finish off his collegiate career. Lenz made that trip well worth it, dominating for a five-minute span of the opening frame with a variety of low-post moves and prowess from the perimeter. In that key stretch, Lenz scored 10 points and helped the Utes extend their lead to 32-11. Lenz finished the game with 14 points and three rebounds.
“Renan has stuck with it and he’s probably the most positive guy on the team,” Krystkowiak said. “With his family here for the first time ever, it was supposed to happen that way.”
Utah led by as many as 27 points in the opening session and went into the half with a 51-26 advantage.
The Sun Devils didn’t just lie down in the second half, though. A 3-pointer by Arizona State’s Egor Koulechov finished off an 8-0 Sun Devil run to cut the lead to 13 at 61-48 with 10:22 remaining. However, on the next Ute possession, Jordan Loveridge hit a trey of his own that spearheaded a 14-3 run that pushed the lead back 24 at 75-51 and end any thoughts of an Arizona State comeback.
Loveridge and Delon Wright bounced back from subpar performances against the Wildcats, with Loveridge scoring 18 points to go along with six rebounds while Wright returned to his stat-stuffing self with a line of 22 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three blocks and three steals. Wright was also a perfect 7-for-7 from the field.
Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek was less than impressed with his team’s performance.
“We played horrible basketball,” he said. “I have no explanation. You would have to ask [my players]. We didn’t make plays, we didn’t defend, we couldn’t make shots or free throws. It is really inexplicable. We played a dismal performance.”
The Utes will return to action on Saturday when Colorado comes into Salt Lake City for Senior Day.
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