Runnin’ Utes Win Close One Over UVU

University+of+Utah+sophomore+forward+Timmy+Allen+%281%29+celebrates+after+getting+fouled+by+Brigham+Young+University+senior+Forward+Dalton+Nixon+%2833%29+during+an+NCAA+Basketball+game+at+the+Jon+M.+Huntsman+Center+in+Salt+Lake+City%2C+Utah+on+Wednesday%2C+Dec.+4%2C+2019.+%28Photo+by+Kiffer+Creveling+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29

University of Utah sophomore forward Timmy Allen (1) celebrates after getting fouled by Brigham Young University senior Forward Dalton Nixon (33) during an NCAA Basketball game at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ethan Pearce, Assistant Sports Editor

 

The Utah Utes men’s basketball team held off the UVU Wolverines on Tuesday evening, but got a lot more than they were bargaining for from Utah Valley. Yes, it was a win, but sloppy play made sure the Utes didn’t feel too good about it afterward.

Utah’s offense started slow out of the gate, which has become a theme through their four games so far. Some hot shooting by UVU had the Wolverines up 22-17 midway through the first half. Utah will need to figure out how to come out with some consistent offense earlier in games if they want to compete in the Pac-12. They’re capable, but it’s taken them a while to settle in all their games this year. By the time they had it together in the BYU game, it was already too late. While Utah can afford some cold stretches against mid-major opponents, against the Pac-12, not so much.

The first half was sloppy, with lots of fouls both offensively and defensively, poor ball movement and rebounding that wasn’t great. Still, Utah was able to shoot well enough to stay in front and led at the break 41-35.

The Utes got a little more settled to open the second half. As per usual at this point, they let the over-matched opponent hang around for longer than they needed to, eventually earning a 75-67 win. The transition offense created the spark they needed as they took off running with a couple of Timmy Allen dunks to crack things open. UVU, however, continued to keep it close. Senior Evan Cole was a star for the Wolverines, posting a whopping 31 points, a career-high. UVU went on a run with about five minutes left to cut into Utah’s lead. It was only a one-point game with about three minutes to play. A lot closer than it needed to be, but the Utes got it done.

Still, the sluggish performance in the first half was mostly uninspiring. They lacked energy and focus early, and the issues from previous games were still showing themselves. Utah will need to play a lot better next week against Arizona State if they want to keep a solid record in the Pac-12 gauntlet. They’ve got one game left against Idaho at home before entering full Pac-12 play, so that’s the final tune-up before things have to look a lot better than they have.

“We move the ball and commit to getting good shots, it’ll be pretty easy for us,” said junior Timmy Allen.

Allen was the best Ute on the day, scoring 19 points which led the team. Freshman Ian Martinez had his first basket as a Ute after seeing some consistent minutes today. Sophomores Rylan Jones and Branden Carlson and junior Riley Battin all scored double figures. 

Utah was again outrebounded, 34-29. That has been an issue all season long, and they don’t seem to have an answer for it at the moment. 

“This is going to be a work in progress,” said Larry Krystkowiak. “I think rebounding wins games… we’re going to have to continue to focus on it all the way through.”

The difference in the game was the Utes only turned it over eight times to UVU’s twenty, and Utah scored 26 points off those turnovers. 

“We managed to make some plays when we needed to,” said Krystkowiak. “Thank goodness we just made enough plays.”

While they didn’t impress today, there is one more game against Idaho on Friday before the real challenge begins. The Runnin’ Utes will play at the Jon M. Huntsman Center at 7 p.m. MST before starting full-time Pac-12 play. There are a lot of things to fix before then.

 

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