Jordan Loveridge led the Runnin' Utes in a 98-38 route of Pacific (Ore) with a game-high 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including 4-of-4 on 3-pointers. In its only exhibition game prior to the start of the regular season, No. 25 Utah, as expected, drilled the Boxers in the newly renovated Jon M. Huntsman Center before an announced crowd of 10,434.
"I think we’re dialed in and ready to go," Loveridge said. "It felt great to play in that type of crowd and the freshmen could play in front of a lot of fans. I thought we executed and communicated really well tonight."
Utah came out with an interesting starting lineup of Delon Wright and Kenneth Ogbe at the guards (6-5 and 6-6 respectively), Jordan Loveridge at the small forward, JC transfer Chris Reyes at the power forward, and Austrian 7-footer Jakob Poeltl at center. Former starter Brandon Taylor was one of the first players off the bench, and Dallin Bachynski replaced Poeltl in the post. The second unit also included freshmen forwards Kyle Kuzma (6-9) and Brekkot Chapman (6-8).
"We've been watching about 5-6 weeks of practice and if anything, we just wanted a little bit more size in our starters," head coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "I thought Kenneth at the ‘2’ has been doing a nice job and Jakob also, so it's not anything that is new and I think that it's not necessarily going to last. A lot of guys come to play and there's going to be some reward for their efforts."
The Utes immediately jumped out to an 11-0 lead and maintained control throughout the game. Later in the half, the Utes then used a 27-3 run to build a 49-11 halftime advantage.
"We had an opportunity to get into the building, get the butterflies going and get a test before the season starts," said Krystkowiak.
Utah made 51.4 percent of its shots from the field over the first 20 minutes and held a 30-14 rebounding edge. Pacific was held to 11.5 percent shooting, making just 3-of-26 attempts. Poeltl recorded three points, eight rebounds, and three blocks in the first frame, finishing with nine points (on 2-of-5 shooting, 5-of-6 from the free throw line), 11 rebounds, the three blocks, and an assist.
"I’ve had great support since getting here," Poeltl stated. "Every day I come in and battle with Dallin and Jeremy, and they make me a better player. Everyone is fighting for minutes, and that’s created some really good competition in practices."
Chapman filled up the stat sheet in just 20 minutes, scoring 14 points (on 6-of-8 shooting, 2-of-2 from the free throw line) to go with five rebounds, two blocks, an assist, and a steal. The ESPN Top 15 recruit was active under the boards, cleaning up a lot of the missed shots and getting off his feet quickly for put-backs. Defensively, his length bothered the smaller Boxers and will present real problems for opposing forwards.
"Rebounding is going to be a key for us," Krystkowiak added. "We are going to see some pretty big teams this season, and that's been a little bit of an Achilles heel for us against some of the elite teams. The biggest key for us is to make sure that we're not at a deficit as we were a lot of times last year."
Taylor tallied 11 points (4-of-9 shooting, 1-of-3 from 3-point range, 2-for-2 from the charity stripe), three steals, and an assist. Reyes added seven points, seven rebounds, and a game-high four blocks.
The Utes finished the massacre shooting 52.2 percent from the field, 41 percent from behind the 3-point arc, and 80.8 percent (21-of-26) as a team from the free throw line. Utah also recorded 10 blocked shots and held a 51 to 27 rebounding advantage over the shorter Boxers. No Runnin' Utes starter played more than 23 minutes, which, interestingly, went to shooting guard Ogbe. Chapman played 20 minutes and Kuzma logged just slightly less at 19 minutes, so, while it was just an exhibition, it seems likely the talented freshman will get plenty of run this season.
Utah opens the regular season at home next Friday against Ball State. It is part of a basketball doubleheader at the JMHC with the women playing at 5 p.m. and the men tipping at 8 p.m. The game will be carried on the Pac-12 Networks.