After starting the game trailing 16-2 to the Yotes Monday night at the Huntsman Center, the No. 21/22 Utes (11-2) eventually blew out the College of Idaho, an NAIA program, by the score of 115-74 to wrap up the non-conference portion of the schedule. The Utes were led by Kyle Kuzma and Dakari Tucker with 17 points a piece, while Jakob Poeltl and Brandon Tayler pitched in 15 points, and Lorenzo Bonam had 12 points of his own.
As mentioned, the Utes trailed the game 16-2 early on, as their turnover woes reappeared, and their consistently poor three point defense was really coming back to bite them. The Yotes opened the game 5-of-7 from distance, and ended the night 14-of-39. Yes, they are a high volume three point shooting team, but a number of their early threes were wide open, and made the game much closer than it needed to be. Utah has had problems finding three point shooters all year long, and have struggled rotating and closing out when they do find their man. See our article from earlier about some of these struggles. Utah also finished with 17 turnovers, far too many, and that has been something that has been plaguing Utah all season long, especially in their losses to Miami and Wichita State, and nearly cost them the Duke game.
While it wasn't the Utes best performance of the year, when they were taking care of the ball on offense, they were efficient. To score 115 points you'd expect as much. The Utes were 42-of-67 (62.7%) from the field, and 11-of-25 (44%) from three point land. Some of Utah's struggling guards had some nice shooting games, specifically Tucker and Taylor who were 6-of-12 combined from beyond the arc, while Isaiah Wright had 8 points of his own with 2-of-3 shooting from deep. Those are players that Utah's going to need to step up in conference play going forward. Hopefully a game like this will build some confidence for the guard line to hit the long ball, like we are use to seeing.
Utah's bigs, Poeltl, Kuzma and Brekkott Chapman's size really made a big difference. When the ball got into the post to one of the bigs it was easy to just lay up the ball over the smaller CoI defenders. Utah also out rebounded CoI by 30 (54 to 24), on the back of Poeltl's 10 boards.
Now the Utes move into Pac-12 play, as they go to Stanford and Cal this weekend. First up, Stanford on New Years Day, and then to the very talented, but young, Cal team in Berkeley on Sunday.