Well, it’s nice to start a season with a win. The first half of the first half was pretty entertaining. The Utes were aggressive, running the floor, finding the open guy, and hitting shots. Then the last 30 minutes of the game were pretty painful to watch. While they led by double digits most of the game, they just couldn’t put away Maine, and even had the lead down to single digits with under 4 minutes remaining in the game. Ultimately, they did put Maine away and win 75-61. So it could have been worse. Overall, not a great first impression for the Utes, but I do understand this is a new team with so many new bodies. Not to mention, Coach K is rolling in quite a few guys to get some film on various combinations of lineups and see who plays well together. It’ll probably be a month or so until we start to see the rotation get tightened up.
The Utes had a nice flurry at the the end of the 1st half, and the end of the game, but it was a slog for so much of the game. Bad turnovers, missed shots, stagnant offense, flat defense, and that just means there is a lot to clean up before the Utes get into the bear of this schedule. I’m still baffled by Jayce Johnson. He struggles with the ball, and is so stiff out there. As long as he stays in his role, he’ll be a nice piece.
Ultimately, I’m not sure who “the guy” is on this team. Last year, when the Utes would struggle, Justin Bibbins bailed them out so often, and David Collete and Tyler Rawson would do the same. This season, I’m thinking it will be Sedrick Barefield or Donnie Tillman, they need to prove it as we get going this season.
The Utes were led by Barefield with 18 points and 8 assists, most of his points coming during the bookends of the game. Donnie Tillman was a terror for stretches of this game, but his foul trouble kept him off the floor for most of the 2nd half. Parker Van Dyke had 11 points, but like Barefield, was no where to really be found for most of the heart of the game. A player that did come in and give the Utes a nice shot in the arm was Vante Hendrix. Who finished with 5 points, but came in with a ton of energy and gave the Utes a spark in that 1st half.
The Utes now travel to Minnesota, where they need to be much better. I expect this team to improve as we go along, but after this game, I’m not sure what their identity is, and they may not know yet either, being such a young group.