It wasn’t pretty for the Utes, but they battled on the road in their first road game of the season against Minnesota. The Golden Gophers built a lead as large as 15, threatening to blow out the Utes, but Utah kept battling, and in the end they couldn’t come all the way back losing 78-69.
What does this loss show us about the Utes two games into the season? Well, first, the go-to guy roll is still vacant. Sedrick Barefield had a flurry at the end of the game to pull Utah to within five, but he vanishes for long stretches of time. Barefield was tied as the Utes leading scorer with 14 points, but was just 5 of 15 from the field. Donnie Tillman almost had a double-double with 9 points and 9 rebounds, but his foul trouble really kept him off the floor in key moments. He is a playmaker for the Utes, but his inability to stay out of fouls trouble guarding bigger guys is a concern. He has a great game, but he just needs to stay on the floor.
There were three new guys, two of which are freshmen, made an impact that has me very intrigued as the season progresses. First was Novak Topalovic, who had 13 points of his own, but only three boards. He kept the Utes within arms length most of the first half. He’s a big body, and can put the ball in the basket, and hopefully ends up filling the Collette role. Both Gach had 7 points and 2 threes that chipped away at Minnesota’s lead. He struggled in the first game, but played a much more controlled game tonight, and earned more minutes at the point guard spot. Then there’s Vante Davis, who had 14 points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds. He is instant offense off the bench, and may deserve a bigger role on the team. He was a shot in the arm in the first game, and was again tonight. I think I’d like to see him put into the starting lineup over Parker Van Dyke, who was scoreless tonight on 0-3 shooting.
If the coaching staff can continue to cultivate the likes of Gach, Hendrix and Timmy Allen (who struggled tonight going 2 of 8), plus find a good way to mix them with the vets of Barefield and Tillman, I think that could be a fun formula. I saw more of the raw talent in tonights loss than I did against Maine, which is something I’m happy to see. The Utes are going to struggle, at least during the non-conference, as they continue to learn their roles. However, if tonight is any indication, they will battle and make runs, they just need to find a way to put together a complete game... and hopefully one day avoid the dreaded drought we are so accustomed to over the last few years.
Next up for the Utes, a home game against Mississippi Valley State on Thursday at 6pm.