It's been a busy week for the Utes, playing three games in the past week, and it's been a tough stretch as they've lost three of the last four games. These games have come with a rash of injuries plaguing the team. Fortunately, some bodies are finally starting to come back with the return of Gabe Madsen and Marco Anthony. Utah is still down Dusan Mahorcic with no clear timetable on his return. It should also be noted how well Branden Carlson has looked after turning his ankle a few games ago; that looked like an injury that would hold him out for a while.
With a couple of those guys coming back into the lineup, the ability to play a team like Manhattan to help build some continuity and get some reps is a big deal. It was a battle for the first 10 minutes of the game as Utah was getting used to the pressing of Manhattan, but they built a nice 10 point lead with about nine minutes left in the opening half after a lob from Both Gach to Carlson. Utah was efficient all game, including the opening half, by shooting 55% from the field and 47% from three, giving them the halftime lead of 17 points.
In the second half, the Utes put the hammer down as they built a 30 point lead and just never slowed down. As Manhattan continued to press then, the Utes had a layup line and built the lead. Lahat Thioune feasted with a career-high 16 points and seven rebounds. He cleaned up in the paint and was the receiver of the ball being pushed up the court on the press. Riley Battin also had a nice game with 14 points and was aggressive in finding his shots. Carson had 13, and Gach had 12, 10 of which came in the game's opening minutes. Gach has played well, and when he's on the attack, he's tough because his speed with the ball is so impressive, especially at his size. The interesting move made by Coach Smith in this game was his having David Jenkins Jr. come off the bench. Jenkins is a guy I think the Utes are going to need because of his ability to spread the floor, so hopefully, this helps jump-start him. I also think the return of Anthony is huge as he gets back into the flow of the game. He seems to be such a conduit for the Utes with his ability to rebound and defend. He also does a nice job attacking the point and finding nice shots in the paint. It just seems like the team functions better when Anthony is out on the floor.
The Utes now go to Mizzou to take on the Tigers for the return trip of the home-and-home that started a few seasons ago. They'll have a week off before playing the Tigers next Saturday, which should give them an excellent opportunity to continue to heal and get some practice time.