The Utah Runnin’ Utes (3-0) capped their three game season-opening home stand with a 77-59 win over the Missouri Tigers (2-1). This was Utah’s third win over Missouri, and Utah now leads the all-time series 3-0. This marked the first time since Utah’s Jan. 6, 2009 win over the LSU Tiger 91-61 that Utah has defeated an opponent from the Southeastern Conference.
Utah was led by senior forward David Collette’s 17 points, which ties his season-high. True freshman forward Donnie Tillman notched his first career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, which led the team. Senior forward Tyler Rawson was one of five Utah players who scored in double figures 12 points, along with Collette, Tillman, senior guard Gabe Bealer (10 points), and sophomore forward Jayce Johnson (10 points).
Missouri was without highly touted freshman Michael Porter Jr. who did not make the trip to Utah due to injury. On his absence, Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak had this to say:
“There’s no adjustment because we didn’t ever see him play. It would be different if we had a sample size where he had five games or 10 games, whatever the case may be, but the two games I watched them play this year, they are really good and you didn’t see the best performance by that team. They are a good basketball team and they are only going to be better when they get that man in the roster but we didn’t talk about it. We can only go with the evidence we have and a lot of what they do offensively, you could see where he could be put in those positions to succeed and whether he played or not, we had the same plan in place. It is a bonus to not have to play against a player of that caliber. I watched him play a lot in AAU and I know he is a heck of a player. Injuries are a part of it and we didn’t have the best week ourselves. Jayce [Johnson] has been beat up and we have had the stomach flu and virus running through us that I got hit with for a couple days. Sedrick [Barefield] was out for three days and Donnie [Tillman] has been sick. We are fortunate to have a good week in practice overall and am glad our guys responded really well.”
In the game, the Runnin’ Utes only turned over the ball six times, their lowest in a game since a 63-59 win at the California Golden Bears on March 5, 2014 where the team recorded six turnovers as well. On the decrease in turnovers, Krystkowiak said,
“Missouri is a good defensive team too and brought a lot of pressure. I can think of two or three of the possessions where we got sloppy, again we aren’t seeking perfection, but that’s been a little bit of an Achilles heel and a focal point for us after our first two games. Some of it can be the newness of the season and we haven’t had a normal amount of practices in this building and certainly not making excuses, but there are some guys that haven’t played in this building under those circumstances. So, a little bit of it was the jitters and we just got sped up by the pressure. Missouri is a great pressure, physical type of team and so we put some things in place and it is more of a mindset than anything tactical. Like quarterbacks, if you throw an errant pass or one’s that not perfect, you have a responsibility on the receiver to make sure the ball isn’t picked off. I think that was half of our early season woes with those two games is just complacency and not coming to me. We have cleaned some of that up so that was important.”
Utah was up 35-19 at the end of the first half. The Runnin’ Utes played well defensively in the first half, but they also benefitted from Missouri missing shots. The Utah coaching staff did a nice job on their defensive scheme that was well-executed by the players, which helped limit the Tigers to only 19 first half points. Krystkowiak said this about the combination of Missouri missing shots and Utah playing good defense,
“There was a combination. We dodged some bullets certainly. I was really proud of the trapping scheme we put in place this week. You will see that team later and they have some big boys and a lot of size as they witnessed. They have an emphasis to get the ball inside and we did a really nice job and turned them over. At the end of the day, like I told the guys before the game, know personnel and as coaches we always expect them to be perfect with stuff but we know there’s going to be breakdowns, but as long as you bring energy to the game, it can bail you out of a lot of situations. I thought there was an awful lot of energy. I think we have had this one circled on the calendar for a little while and we had some guys step up. It was a combination. They missed some open looks but that’s what happens when you go on the road too. This is their first time being on the road and it’s not always easy to hit shots. I’ll give our guys a lot of the credit but I’m sure when we look at the tape there will be many open shots that they missed.”
Next up for the Runnin’ Utes is a pair of games at the MGM Resorts Main Event in Las Vegas, Nev. next week. Utah opens the tournament against the Ole Miss Rebels on Monday, Nov. 20. Utah will look to extend their winning streak against SEC teams to four games against the Rebels. Their next opponent will be either Rice or UNLV on Wednesday, Nov. 22. The game between the Utes and Rebels is set to tip off at 9:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. MT with television coverage on AT&T SportsNet.