Kuzma, freshmen lead Runnin’ Utes to win over UC Riverside

During the offseason, much was made of the talent Utah returned from a team that saw a decent amount of success in 2013-14. Little did Ute fans know that through the first three games of the season, it would be the freshman carrying a heavy load and it was no different in the Runnin’ Utes’ 88-42 victory over UC Riverside on Friday night.
Leading the way for Utah was freshman Kyle Kuzma, who tore up the Huntsman Center to the tune of 19 points. The forward shot 6-for-7 from the field, including a 3-for-4 performance from three-point range. Kuzma was coming off of a game where he saw just four minutes on the floor at San Diego State, but changed his approach this time around.
“I just let the game come to me this time,” Kuzma said. “First two games, I was kind of hesitant because I haven’t really played in awhile. Today, I was a little bit calmed down and just played my game.”
In the first two games of the season, Kuzma attempted just a single field goal attempt, which he missed. The offensive outburst from the freshman wasn’t so much as a shocker to Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak, but more of a pleasant surprise.
“I joked with him after the game. In practice, he has been clanging them all over the place; short and banking them in,” Krystkowiak said. “We are coaching him hard … (Kuzma’s shot) looked good and it hasn’t looked good in a while.”
Helping Kuzma along the way was fellow freshman foward Brekkott Chapman. The Roy High product looked fluid and active against the Highlanders, registering 11 points to go along with his six rebounds, four assists and three blocks.
Additionally, point guard Isaiah Wright dished out eight assists while Jakob Poeltl scored seven points, grabbed four rebounds and blocked two shots in just 10 minutes of game time.
Oh, and both of those players are freshmen, too.
“Some of these guys are finding their rhythm. I think for all of our freshmen, there is less learning that is taking place now,” Krystkowiak said. “I think we are seeing a little bit of a learning curve. It’s getting easier for those guys that are new to the scene.”
Other notable performances for Utah came from point guard Delon Wright, who finished with a stat line of 13 points, four rebounds and three assists and Jordan Loveridge, who finished with 12 points and five rebounds.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Utes held UC Riverside to a 29 percent shooting clip, including a dismal 1-for-13 from behind the arc. The top two scoring Highlanders heading into this game were held to just six points combined while Nick Gruninger, a Davis High product, accounted for a third of UC Riverside’s points with 14.
“The key for our team, I really like what we are doing defensively – making the game hard for people,” Krystkowiak said.
The Runnin’ Utes will be back in action next weekend when they host Texas-Pan American, Alabama State and North Dakota in a tournament over the Thanksgiving weekend, where they will play three games in four days.
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