The Utes opened up the 2019-20 basketball season with a nice win on the road against a Nevada team, that is also in a rebuild mode. Nevada may not be a great team, that will play out, but for this young Utah team, to get a road win in a tough environment is a nice confidence builder. I had some concerns after the exhibition game against UT Tyler last week, and those have been eased a little bit, but this team has a long ways to go.
The Utes were led by Timmy Allen’s 23 points, and Both Gach’s 22 points. Allen also had 11 rebounds, with a strong double-double to open the season. After the UT Tyler game, I wasn’t sure if this team has a go-to guy, and while I’m not sure if they still do, and probably won’t know for a long time, but Allen and Gach could supply a nice 1-2 punch between the two of them. One thing that did impress me is that Utah only had 13 turnovers on the night, which isn’t a terrible number. The last few years Utah would have 20+ on any given night, and it looks like, at least after the first game, that Rylan Jones may be able to keep this team under control. Jones had 9 points and 5 assists in his debut, with only 1 turnover on the night. That’s what you want to see from your point guard. The little guy also had 5 rebounds, that’s an added bonus.
Utah really controlled the game from beginning to end, with Nevada making some runs, including a big one in the second half to take a lead, but the Utes were in pretty solid control of the game from most of the contest. The Utes did have a hard time stopping Lindsey Drew, who had 30 points on 12 of 19 shooting, but they kept UNR from shooting too well on the game, holding the Wolfpack to just 41% shooting. The Utes kept UNR at arms length going into the stretch, having a lead as much as 9, and really stopped any run that Nevada put together. It was impressive for this young group.
Where Utah needs to improve is shooting beyond the arc. The Utes were 5-of-23 from three point range, and that’s something that Utah will need to improve through the non-conference slate. Where Utah made up for that is the amount of free throw attempts, even if they didn’t shoot them very well, going 22-of-35. The Utes also out rebounded UNR 51-32. Outside of Jones, the Utes are pretty long and should be able to rebound the ball.
I’m not sure how many wins the Utes are going to get this year, but if they play hard and together like they did tonight, they’ll be fun to watch. This is a building block game, and a good start to the season for a team that is looking to figure out who they are on the fly.