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Utes lose to Butler 81-69

NCAA Basketball: Utah at Butler Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Utes got off to a strong start on the road at Butler Tuesday night, and led by as much as 8 points in the 1st half, with Justin Bibbins, Gabe Bealer and Donnie Tillman all hitting from all over the court, and keeping the Bulldogs off balance. It was a run at the end of the half, that ran over into the 2nd half that ultimately did the Utes in.

Butler used a prolonged run to push the lead up to 15 points, and Utah battled back to within 5, but couldn’t get beyond that. Utah was torched by Kelan Martin, who had 29 points on the night, and had little resistance by the Utah defense. He went 12 of 19 from the field nad had 11 boards. Paul Jorgensen kept the Utes honest with his 3 point shooting, by going 4 of 6 from deep and had 16 total points. Utah’s defense just was not sharp for long stretches of this game. They played strong to open the game, with good movement off the ball and good contesting of shots, but once Butler got comfortable, Utah wasn’t able to lock them down.

On offense, Utah has an emerging star in Tillman, who had a career high 20 points, while also pulling in 7 rebounds. Tillman is really good in the paint, and has a really soft touch that allows the ball to rest on the rim and fall in. Tillman really needs more minutes, and should maybe be put into the starting lineup, because he’s a problem for opposing forwards. David Collette was almost a no-show tonight, with only 6 points, all of which came in the 2nd half. Collette struggles with big front courts, and either rushes shots, or forces a poor shot to try and beat the length. The Utes need more from him. They also need more from Sedric Barefield, who had 14 points but on 5 of 16 shooting. That’s the kind of efficiency that will kill Utah on the guard line. I’m not sure if moving him to the bench would settle him down, but he just seems uncomfortable out there.

It was nice to see Utah battle back and make it a game in the last half of the 2nd half, but when that offensive draught hit, and they had more than one, it was a struggle for the Utes on that side of the ball.

Next up for the Utes is the “Beehive Classic” game against Utah State on Saturday at Vivint SmartHome Arena.