Utah Men’s Basketball Tops Fresno State in Defensive Battle


Xiangyao Tang

University of Utah men’s basketball player Both Gach plays against BYU Cougars in Jon M. Huntsman Center, Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday Nov. 27, 2021. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Chase Mullin, Assistant Sports Editor


In their final game before a nine-day break in their schedule, the University of Utah runnin’ Utes basketball team faced off against Fresno State at home on Tuesday night. With the semester officially over and many students returning home for the break, a hollow crowd which featured a MUSS section that was about 12 or 13 students deep witnessed an incredibly entertaining game at the Huntsman Center. The Utes came into Tuesday night’s game 7-4, while their opponent, the Fresno State Bulldogs, traveled to Utah after getting off to their best start in roughly 15 years with a 9-2 record. 

The first half proved to be a relatively low-scoring affair, with the Utes struggling to hit their three-point shot attempts. Indeed, Utah shot just 2-12 from beyond the arc and they were 8-26 on all field goals in the opening frame. Fresno State would ultimately take a 23-22 lead into halftime.

“We have a lot of respect for those guys[ Fresno State],” said Utes head coach Craig Smith. “They’re eighth in the country in defensive field goal percentage for a reason. I thought we were a little timid offensively in the first half but we defended very well all night.” 

Utah’s three-point and field goal shooting were a different story in the second half. Back-to-back three-pointers to open up the second half from Rollie Worster and Marco Anthony gave the Utes the lead and set the tone for the remainder of the game.

With the Utes up 49-45, a pair of free throws by Lazar Stefanovic put Utah up by six with about a minute left in regulation, and after a steal by the Utes which resulted in a dunk by Utes guard Marco Anthony, the game appeared to be over. Fresno State would respond with a quick three-pointer but still had to resort to fouling to stop the clock. 

Despite being without powerhouse Brandon Carlson, the Utes would end up winning a close game by a score of 55-50. Utah’s offense was led by Marco Anthony with 11 points in addition to Lahat Thioune with ten, and Lazar Stefanovic with nine, respectively.

From a defensive perspective, the Utes, led by Lahat Thioune, did a highly effective job at containing Fresno State forward Orlando Robinson, who critics claim could be bound for the NBA in the near future. When asked about the challenge of going head to head with Robinson, Thioune claimed that he was up for the challenge and even asked to be matched up with him.

“We watched him [Robinson] a lot on film and for me mentally, my goal was to stop him every time,” Thioune said.

Thioune and the Utes did just that, and although Robinson tallied a game-high 17 points on the night, Utah was able to effectively prevent Robinson from taking over the game. The Utes’ focus now shifts toward Pac-12 play, as they will be heading to Corvallis to face off against Oregon State on Dec. 30, and will play Oregon on New Year’s Day.


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