For the first time since the 2014-15 season the Utah men’s basketball team opens up their Pac-12 schedule 2-0, but this time they do it with a road sweep after they snuck past Oregon State in Corvallis 66-64.
Utah really came out firing in this game, and was hot in the first half, when they shot 10-of-17 from three point range. Utah actually only made two 2-point field goals in that opening half, which shows just how hot they were from beyond the arc. They were paced by Justin Bibbins, who had 12 of his 18 points in that first half, and hit all four of his threes in the first. Bibbins has emerged, to me, as the leader of this team. He has come out swinging in these opening games, and it’s very encouraging. Sedric Barefield had a nice start to the game too, helping provide that one-two punch in the backcourt, which can help keep teams off balance. Barefield punched in 7 of his 9 points in that first half.
The second half was a half of runs for both the Beavers and the Utes. Oregon State jumped out early in the half to erase the six point Utah halftime lead, and took the lead about 5 minutes into the second. Oregon State battled in the second half while battling foul trouble, which helped Utah race back to reclaim the lead, and build it up to 8 points with Oregon State going on almost an 8 minute draught of their own. Unfortunately, that almost wasn’t good enough for the Utes, who really should have pushed the lead well into double digits at that point, but seemed content to run out the clock once they got that 8 point lead. As it usually does up in Corvallis, this got dicey for Utah at the end. Barefield hit one of two free throws to give Utah a two point lead with just seconds remaining. Oregon State went down and got multiple attempts at the basket to tie or take the lead, which ultimately led to an out of bounds play by OSU, where the inbounded turned the ball over with 1.4 seconds remaining on the clock. A series of mistakes by both teams made this one a thriller, and knowing Utah’s inbounds play history, getting the ball in to ice the game was not a given, but fortunately they were able to do just that.
Utah is 2-0 in league play, and now they welcome the Arizona schools into the Huntsman Center this coming week, with No. 17 Arizona coming on Thursday and No. 3 ASU coming on Sunday. A tough slate for the Utes, so it’s good that they were able to get a pair on the road.