The Runnin’ Utes took their latest step in the journey of discovering who they are by defeating the Montana State Bobcats 92-84 on Thursday night. The Utes looked to fine tune their game after a loss to the Butler Bulldogs that was riddled with turnovers. The Bobcats brought a change of pace, as they like to spread the court out and attack with dribble penetration and finding open shooters on the perimeter.
The high paced offense was a struggle for Utah. Utah was able to make the correct defensive rotation for the first pass or two, but as the sets wore on the Bulldogs easily found a shooter who has slipped past the defense’s minds. Tyler Hall was the man who led the point of attack and orchestrated an offense that made 12 three pointers. Hall finished with 22 points on the night.
The Hot Start
Both teams began the game red hot. The Utes and Bobcats combined to make 11 of the first 12 shot attempts, the only miss came on a three point attempt for Montana State.
Parker Van Dyke was the one who sparked things for the Utes. Thirteen seconds into the game, Van Dyke curled to the top of the key from the right elbow, caught a pass from Devon Daniels with his feet already squared to the basket, and drained a quick-release three pointer. Moments later already feeling confident, Van Dyke launched another from three feet beyond the arc, with the same result.
Trying to spread the wealth, Van Dyke got the ball to JoJo Zamora who also buried a three. As if that wasn’t enough, after a Montana State miss, Van Dyke nailed yet another three from the corner and the Utes connected on all of their first six shots, including the four straight threes. As a matter of fact, Utah’s first miss didn’t come until the 14:13 mark, when Van Dyke came back to reality after missing a three from the left corner.
The great shooting start helped calm the concerns of Utah fans who have been bothered by Utah’s poor outside shooting ability so far on the season. However, those feelings wouldn’t last long.
Early Season Trends
Three Point Shooting- Just as it appeared Utah had overcome their shooting woes, the old demons resurfaced. After hitting four straight, Utah would go on to miss on 11 consecutive three point attempts. By only hitting one of their final 15 three pointers Utah finished with an ugly 26.3%, on 5-19 shooting. Van Dyke and Zamora were the only two Utes two make a three pointer on the evening.
Rebounding Success- Once again Utah was impressive on the boards. Utah out-rebounded the Bulldogs 51-31, and grabbed 19 offensive boards in the process. By allowing themselves extra opportunities to score, Utah finished with 17 second chance points. Also the added attempts from close range helped Utah dominate in the paint, scoring 52 points in the key to Montana State’s 20 points.
Turnovers Leading to Points- The main focus for the Utes after their performance against Butler has been executing the offense and not turning the ball over. However, Utah continued the ugly trend by coughing up the ball 17 times. Just like the last game those turnovers led to an unacceptable amount of points. The Bulldogs added 17 points to their total thanks to Utah’s miscues. In the last two games Utah has turned the ball over 35 times, leading to 41 points.
Moment of Truth
After leading 47-35 at halftime, the Utes got off to a rocky start in the second half. In the first five minutes Utah missed nine of their first eleven shots. The dry spell spurred a 14-5 run for the Bulldogs and they pulled the game to within three points, 52-49.
Utah was aggressive in feeding the post and trying to use its size advantage. Jayce Johnson was able to get great position and make some nice post moves, but he lacked touch on his shots. Perimeter players panicked when the ball came to them and threw up the shot before the had time to set and gather themselves.
Just as Montana State had sucked all the momentum away from the Utes, Tyler Rawson and Devon Daniels put an end to the Bulldog’s comeback efforts. Rawson scored six straight points for Utah. First, a smooth right hand layup at the front of the rim. Next, a step back, 15 foot pull up jumper from the baseline. Third, standing at the top of the key, Kuzma delivered a beautiful pass to Rawson he dropped in a running floater. Rawson’s little run gave the Utes a bit more breathing room at 61-53.
Daniels took over where Rawson left off. The Bulldogs continued fighting and scoring buckets of their own, but Daniels got aggressive and bullied his way to the hoop for two lay-ins. The highlight was when he put the ball on the floor hard and pushed in traffic to the hoop. Quinton Everett attempted to stop Daniels but only fouled him, allowing for the three point play. Daniels and Rawson combined to score eleven straight points for Utah and helped keep the Bulldogs at bay, keeping the lead extended 68-57 after a strong push.
Knowing that he was only one assist away from his first career triple double, Kyle Kuzma stood at the baseline with only 1:18 remaining. The walk-ons were preparing to come into the game and Kuzma knew he would only have one more shot at it. The junior power forward launched a ball 96 feet through the air trying to get a homerun pass from underneath the basket, but with too much juice on the ball he watched the milestone fall out of reach. However, that takes nothing away from his impressive performance. Kuzma finished the night with 16 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists. Like most great players who have an off-night offensively, Kuzma was extra aggressive and was able to find his points at the foul line. Half of Kuzma’s points came from the charity stripe, enabling him to reach double figures.
The Utes will have the weekend off as they prepare to welcome former Ute, Kenneth Ogbe, back to the Huntsman Center. Ogbe transferred to Utah Valley University over the off season and will escort his new squad down I-15 as they will face Utah December 6th at 6 PM MT. The game will be aired on the Pac 12 Network.