Utah downs Ball State in season opener



After all the talk and all the hype surrounding the 2013-14 Runnin’ Utes, they finally got a chance to officially show it on the court. The first impression of the No. 25 squad in the country? There’s still room to grow, but there is a lot of promise.
The Utes used a late run to blow the game open and cruise to a 90-72 win over Ball State Friday night at the Huntsman Center.
Utah wasn’t dominant for much of the game, but there was a glimpse of greatness, more than a glimpse even. For about a two and a half minute spell the Utes looked downright explosive. Ball State slowly cut what once was a double digit Utah lead down to 6, at 69-63 with 5:48 remaining. The Utes then found an extra gear.
A Jordan Loveridge steal led to a fast break layup. Then a Brandon Taylor steal ended with a Jakob Poeltl transition tip in. Moments later, a Delon Wright block electrified the crowd followed by a dagger Loveridge three. In almost a blink of an eye, a two-possession game turned into a 20-point rout.
“You saw I think an extra 20 percent of effort, it’s kind of the reality,” Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “We were kind of running in mud defensively and it’s like being in a boxing match and getting punched and you kind of wake up. I saw a little sense of urgency on our guy’s faces to complete possessions.”
The Utes jumped out to a quick 15-5 lead behind an early eight points from freshman center Poeltl, but the Cardinals weren’t about to let Utah run away with this one.
Ball State’s Zavier Turner and Sean Sellers both hit two three’s a piece in the first half to allow the Cardinals to climb back in the game. Delon Wright and Loveridge were forced to miss chunks of time in the opening stanza with foul trouble, which gave Krystkowiak a chance to show off the team’s depth. The results weren’t spectacular.
Freshmen Isaiah Wright, Kyle Kuzma and Brekkott Chapman all got minutes in the opening half and all three struggled. Isaiah Wright didn’t register a stat in five minutes, Chapman missed his only field goal attempt and Kuzma didn’t make any offensive contributions.
Utah’s offense struggled with the youngsters on the court, allowing Ball State to close its deficit to 35-30 at halftime.
“It was a little bit sluggish, we couldn’t get over the hump,” Krystkowiak said. “I thought 10 turnovers in the first half is totally against what we talk about doing and it kind of got contagious. We got a ten point lead and got real complacent with the ball.”
Poeltl gave Utah an inside presence that has been lacking since Kryskowiak got to Salt Lake. The freshman big man ended his first collegiate game with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and his head coach mentioned he would like to see his team go down low more often.
Taylor led the team in scoring with 19 points and Delon Wright had his normal stat stuffing day of 13 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 blocks.
It wasn’t the best start to the game, but if the Utes finish the 2013-14 campaign the way they finished against Ball State, then Utah is in for one successful year.
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