In a game between two former conference foes, the Runnin' Utes were able to knock off San Diego State by a score of 81-76 Monday night, at the Jon M Huntsman Center. In a much more balanced effort than the Southern Utah game, the Utes saw five total players score in double figures. They were led by Jordan Loveridge, who has 21 points on 4-of-8 shooting from beyond the three point line, and hit seven very big free throws on the night. Jakob Poeltl pitched in 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Kyle Kuzma and Lorenzo Bonam both had 14 points, and Brandon Taylor had 10 points - after a nightmarish opener against SUU. Brekkott Chapman pitched in seven points off the bench, Utah's only bench points, and was 4-of-4 from the free throw line. Free throws turned out to be a huge difference in this game, as I'll touch on in a bit.
SDSU was a significant step up for the Utes in competition, and after the exhibition game and the SUU game, the Utes had some serious question marks after those contests, both on defense and with free throw shooting. Both looked much better Monday night, although, there were lapses at times.
Overall, it was a game of hot and cold for the Utes, as they'd jump out to an eight or nine point lead, just to surrender a 12-0 run to SDSU. Then when Utah'd fall behind six to seven points due to an SDSU run, they'd make a run themselves to retake the lead. Brandon Taylor's freezing cold and then hot start to the season was similar to how Utah played this game at times. Taylor started the game missing his first couple of shots, and then just before halftime, he hit an off balance three at the buzzer, from there the lid was off the basket for Taylor and his confidence improved, and the team rallied around him.
While it was a very entertaining game, it wasn't until about a minute left until things started to get really interesting, as Utah seemingly had a comfortable 74-67 lead with under a minute left. SDSU went down and scored a quick three, and followed that up by putting Poeltl on the line, who shot the ball well from the stripe tonight, but he missed one of two. The miss fell right into Kyle Kuzma's hands, and he proceeded to miss a
From that point on, it was basically a free throw contest, and Utah was clutch from the line. The Utes made 20-of-22 free throws in the second half alone, including 12-of-13 to wrap the game up, and each player, including Jakob Poeltl who struggled from the line last year, calmly knocked down
SDSU's length and athleticism were a bit of a concern heading into this game, but it didn't bother them too much, especially when Utah was pressed. Outside of a couple instances, Utah broke SDSU's pressure defense easily, and even led to some easy transition baskets. A game like this is a good one for the Utes to build off of, because they'll see more teams like this in conference play. SDSU was led by Winston Shepard with 19 points, while Malik Pope and Dakari Allen pitched in 15 a piece.
Going forward, Utah's going to need some more production from the bench, as they were1-of-9 on the night from the field.
This is a nice resume building win for the Utes, as they try to climb the rankings, and as they get ready for league play. Next up for the Utes is a trip to Puerto Rico for the Puerto Rico Tip Off.