Well, it looked like a season opener for the Runnin' Utes for long stretches of the game Friday night against SUU, as it was a game full of sloppy play, questionable (at best) defense, and a really poor performance by the Utah guard line. The Utes eventually got the best of SUU by a score of 82-71, mostly thanks to the starting front court of Kyle Kuzma, Jakob Poeltl and Jordan Loveridge.
Those three were about the only bright spots for the Utes on this opening night, as they combined for 73 of the Utes' 82 points. They were led by Jakob Poeltl with 26 points and 11 rebounds, Kuzma pitched in 23 points and 12 rebounds, while Jordan Loveridge had 24 points on 6 of 11 shooting from beyond the three point arc. The dominance on the interior isn't a major surprise, as the Utes had the decided height advantage over the Thunderbirds, especially with the 7-footer Poeltl in the center.
Kyle Kuzma started this game with his hair on fire as he had eight points by the first media timeout, and had multiple possessions down the floor where he would clean up a miss and have a put back. It appears that Kuzma is going to be a major contributor this season, as you could see the flashes of his skill last year.
As for the bad side of the equation, Utah's starting guards, Brandon Taylor and Isaiah Wright went a combined 0-of-16 from the field, with zero points. They did have 10 assists between them and only two turnovers, so there's that. As for the rest of the Utes? Dakari Tucker, Lorenzo Bonam, and Brekkott Chapman went a combined 2-of-10 on the evening. That's the kind of production that will get the Utes beat this season, a lot.
Defensively, the Utes were very shaky to open the game, as it seemed that the Thunderbirds had a free pass to just drive the lane at their own free will. Not to mention they were hot from beyond the arc early. SUU shot almost 54% from the floor in the first half, 50% from the three. While they did improve slightly in the second half, specifically in stretches, the Thunderbirds were 46.7% from the field in the second half, and at 50% overall on the game. That's not going to cut it going forward.
Fortunately, it was the first game, and the Utes will be able to improve going forward and clean up a lot of those lapses, which I expect them to do.
Of course, they better do it sooner rather than later, as they welcome in San Diego State Monday night in a big non-conference matchup.