After a pretty bad effort on Thursday night, the Utes bounced back and played much better on Friday against Grand Canyon. The Utes improved to 3-2 on the season after topping GCU 75-66 in the Wooden Legacy. Utah looked more focused, played sharper, and with a lot more energy than a night ago. They actually opened the game taking some big swings at GCU, especially behind Donnie Tillman (14 points) and Timmy Allen (7 points). They also played much better defense overall, and they were just so much more active on that side of the ball.
Utah did let up a bit near the end of the first half, where GCU cut the lead to 6 going into halftime, but they could never take the lead during the game. Utah led wire-to-wire, and withstood multiple runs from GCU. With the lead jumping between a bucket and 10 points for most of the half, Sedrick Barefield showed up for his best game of the season. He ended the game with 26 points, and went 4 of 8 from three point range. He almost single handedly put GCU away himself with back-to-back threes to give the Utes more breathing room late in the game.
Joining Barefield with a great, clutch performance in this game was Riley Battin, who continues to play very well (and should start at the 5). He put in 10 points and was active all game long. He hit four big free throws, while the team shot much better from the stripe going 19 of 22 overall, whereas last night was a disaster at times. He has a little bit of Tyler Rawson in his game, which is nice to see. Both Gach also played well in the second half, after having some turnover issues in the first. He ended with 10 points, three rebounds and three assists, but attacked often in the waining moments of the game.
Overall, a much better effort for the Utes. They shot an even 50% from the floor, while holding GCU to 43%, and out rebounded them 31-24. The Utes were -1 in the turnover/assist ratio, so that’s something we need to see continue to improve.
All-in-all, a nice game for the Utes, even though it was a win against a WAC team (remember that league?). The Utes will now play Sunday to finish up this three day tournament.