It was never a matter of whether or not Utah was going to beat Carroll College. It was simply a matter of the final margin, as the No. 10 Runnin' Utes, led by forward Jordan Loveridge's 14 points, routed the NAIA Fighting Saints 85-49.
Loveridge returned to the Utes lineup after missing seven games with minor knee surgery, and picked right up where he left off. The junior didn't start but was one of the first players off the bench with approximately three minutes gone in the first half and promptly nailed a three-pointer to push Utah's lead to 12-0. Loveridge finished with a game-high 14 points (in only 16 minutes on the floor) on a very efficient 5-of-6 shooting, 3-of-4 from three-point range.
Utah started off quickly, attacking the basket from the opening tip. Starting power forward Chris Reyes, who has been hampered in the scoring column by a hand injury, came back from the Christmas break strong with the Utes first two baskets. Guard/forward Dakarai Tucker, normally content to roam the three-point arc, faked a three and drove baseline for a strong layup and it was all Utes in the early going. Brandon Taylor then nailed a three, followed by the first of Loveridge's treys, and Carroll College was reeling with 16:39 left in the first half.
Reyes led the starters with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting and also chipped in three rebounds and a blocked shot. Freshman forward Brekkott Chapman turned in another solid performance, scoring 11 points, grabbing six rebounds, and blocking a shot.
Delon Wright turned in his usual all-around game with nine points (4-of-5 from the field, 1-of-1 from the line), seven assists, three rebounds, and three steals. Fellow starter Jakob Poeltl equalled Wright with nine points, tied Chapman for game-high with six rebounds, and also dished out two assists. The best stat for Poeltl on the night? It was his 3-for-4 shooting from the free throw line, a place he's struggled to knock down shots all season.
As would be expected from playing a lower division opponent, Utah had a very good night shooting the basketball. The Utes shot 64.7 percent (33-of-51) from the field, 50 percent from behind the arc (8-of-16), but actually regressed in their free throw shooting, making just 11-of-18 charity tosses, 61.1 percent.
Utah out-rebounded the smaller Saints 38-15, 10-3 on the offensive glass, and held the NAIA school to just 38.8 percent shooting for the game. The Runnin' Utes dominated in all facets of the game, holding a 46-20 advantage in the paint, 16-0 margin on fast break points, and a 10-0 differential on second chance points.
Carroll College was led by 10 points from forward Oliver Carr, which was 5.8 points below his season average. The Utes also frustrated the Fighting Saint's leading scorer Zach Taylor into a 4-of-12 shooting night (1-of-5 from behind the arc) and held him 9.2 points under his average of 18.2 points per game. Still, Taylor stuffed the stat sheet, finishing with nine points, five assists, three steals, and one rebound.
Utah (10-2, 8-0 at home) next hosts USC (7-4) Friday at 8 p.m. MT. The run and gun Trojans are coming off a hard fought 64-56 home win over Vermont. Friday's game will be only the third road game of the season for USC, though they won both of their previous match ups against New Mexico of the Mountain West Conference and Boston College of the ACC.