It wasn't always pretty for the Utes on Thursday night, but they did what they needed to do to walk away with a 80-69 win over the Fresno State Bulldogs in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Utah was led by four players in double figures, all with 16 points or more. Jordan Loveridge, Brandon Taylor and Jakob Poeltl all had 16 points a piece. Poeltl pitched in a career high 18 rebounds, 9 of which were on the offensive glass. Jakob out rebounded the Bulldogs by himself, 18-15. Loveridge had a nice night from beyond the arc, going 4-of-8. While Brandon Taylor had 6 assists to go along with his 16 points. The Utes were led by Lorenzo Bonam and his 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Bonam lived in the paint, as he normally does, and hit a big three to give Utah some breathing room in the second half.
Utah 24 points to Fresno star player Marvelle Harris, while three other Bulldogs scored in double figures.
The first half went pretty well for Utah, as they built a 15 point lead, and was getting some really good looks at the basket, when they weren't turning it over, of course. Utah had half of their 20 (!!!) turnovers in the first half, and really kept Fresno in the game. Poeltl struggled in the first half from the field, as he missed a bunch of bunnies around the rim, as it appeared like he may have had some jitters to open the game. While he wasn't potent from the field, he just dominated, as previously illustrated with his rebounding numbers. Utah gave up a 3 to end the half, cutting their lead to 33-22.
The second half is when Fresno made it really interesting, as they rallied back and actually took the lead from the Utes at 48-47, after a three, and they had all the momentum. Utah responded with a 19-2 run of their own to take the lead back, and they never relinquished it. Of course, the run came when Utah finally started to value the ball and stop turning it over for an extended period of time, combined with a handful of stops.
At the end of the day, Utah won and advanced and didn't play very cleanly. The 20 turnovers speak to that. Utah ended up giving up almost 30 points off of turnovers. Of course, they turned over Fresno 14 times themselves, so that helped, but if they have the same performance in the second round, the Utes' season will be over.
Utah will take on the winner of Gonzaga and Seton Hall on Saturday in Denver for the right to move on to the Sweet-16, so fans can enjoy this win for about a day and a half.