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Utes roll by NAU 76-62

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NCAA Basketball: Utah at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The Utes won their second straight game with a 76-62 win over Northern Arizona on Friday night at the Huntsman Center. The Utes were led by Sedrick Barefield and his 15 points. Joining Sed in double figures was Riley Battin with 13 points and Timmy Allen with 12. The Utes were a bit thrown off by NAUs pressure in the first half, only leading by 8 going into the break, but came out in the second half with a game plan to attack the high presser style and rolled some points up on the board.

Barefield has put together strong back-to-back games now, both of which he came off the bench. He attacked NAU with purpose off the dribble, and he has been shooting well from beyond the arc the last few games. The thing is, while is he good for a couple poor shots a game, he has been playing within the flow of the offense very well the past couple of games. That’s to be said about the whole team, really. The ball is swinging around the court, it’s touching the paint and then being kicked out for open three point shots. Those are shots the Barefield and Parker Van Dyke have really be knocking down. When Utah has someone dribble and probe the defense, and not stand still, the offense is fun to watch and guys get open shots.

Overall, the Utes were just clean tonight, with only 7 turnovers as a group, which is impressive considering NAUs speed. Also, the Utes had 17 assists on their 29 made shots. The Utes shot 49% from the floor, and were really playing well all game long. Coach K has been more hands on the past few games, meaning when he sees something going sideways after a few poor turnovers, he’ll call a timeout and do some serious coaching. Sometimes he’s chewing guys out, Tommy Connor has helped at times with that, because the guys are prone to some boneheaded mistakes, but they really started to reign things in a bit. Of course, it can’t be overlooked the level of competition has likely helped, but the boneheaded turnovers have come down a bit.

Utah’s defense was much better tonight, only giving up 40% shooting and 31% from deep. This lineup that Coach K rolled out the past few games in very interesting, seemingly giving the bench the majority of the offensive firepower with Tillman and Barefield coming off the bench, but it’s worked. I’d be surprised to see that roll over in the conference season, but so far so good.

Utah now will play No. 6 Nevada next Saturday at the Huntsman Center, a tall task. The Utes have made strides the past couple of games, we’ll see how big of strides next week.