Despite an ugly start, trailing by 17 points early on in the game, the Utes claimed their best win of the season, toppling the Sun Devils 96-86. The victory gives the Utes a 1-0 record to start conference play after going 6-6 in their non-conference portion of the schedule, and gives the young team a little momentum going in to the most important part of the season.
After an onslaught of turnovers seemed to sink the Utes early, Tillman and Barefield were at the top of their game tonight, scoring 22 and 24 points respectively. Parker Van Dyke’s four 3’s were critical down the stretch and Tillman’s 54.5% effort from behind the arc was a difference maker for the Utes, primarily in the second half. Outside of Tillman’s dominant performance, the rest of the bench combined for 16 additional points, taking pressure off the starters when the game seemed to be slipping away. Overall, if not for early mental errors, the Utes played as good of a game offensively as one could ask for.
The Utes allowed ASU’s Remy Martin to dominate the game early on, but after implementing some second half adjustments, the defense stepped up in a big way, limiting the sophomore star to only eight points after the break. Demonstrating solid hustle and attentiveness, Utah transitioned down the court with more gusto than they have all season, and rebounding continued to shine, collecting 38, four more than ASU claimed.
Krystkowiak and company conducted a smart game, utilizing the bench to spark the Utes, who fell victim to an early 17 point deficit. Relegating Tillman to the bench and forcing him to (presumably) work his way back into the starting lineup has paid off nicely as evidenced by his 22 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists in the victory. Once the offense found its groove, it seemed the coaching staff had an answer for everything the Sun Devil’s threw their way, out scoring ASU 57-43 in the second half and forcing anyone besides Martin to take control of the game.
Grabbing a road win against one of the best teams in the conference to open up league play is no easy task, but the Utes rose to the occasion, suggesting this young team is finally starting to gel, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Utah is now one game over .500 on the season and undefeated in conference play, giving them a much needed confidence boost before taking on a surprisingly beatable Arizona squad this weekend.