Joel Davidson, UteZone

Utes find new rival in UVU, beat them anyway

Utah took down a fiesty Utah Valley squad in the programs' first-ever meeting.

The Runnin’ Utes squeaked past Utah Valley University beating the Wolverines 87-80, due in large part from a clutch play down the stretch from a hometown hero.

With 29 seconds left in the game and the Utes leading by just two, senior point guard Lorenzo Bonam found Parker Van Dyke for a three point shot to extend Utah’s lead 83-78. It was a dream come true for the one time Ute fan who literally grew up in the Huntsman Center hoping one day to be making big plays on that same court.

“It was a really special moment for me individually and just a great overall play,” Van Dyke said. “Lorenzo made a great pass and trusted me to knock it down. I’ve seen a lot of games like that as a fan- it comes down to the wire where a Utah player hits a big shot.”

It wasn’t the prettiest win for the Utes, and head coach Larry Krystkowiak said they had to “pick their poison” making sure to keep former Ute Kenneth Ogbe and Connor Toolson to their lowest point totals of the season. The two combined for just eight points on the night. However, keeping UVU’s leading scorers at bay came at a price as Utah was burned by Isaac Neilson in resulting open lanes for layups. He had a career night, scoring 28 points and getting 15 rebounds.

“We took away the shooters around the outside and at the end of the day it came down to the two-man game, and they did a better job,” Krystkowiak said. “From an offensive point of view, this team doesn’t stand around, and so there was one possession where we did a good job of defending the pick-and-roll, and then on the next possession we decided that we would quit guarding right after the pick, setting up the big man.”

“We’ve got to work on finishing out defensive possessions so plays like that don’t happen, just some plays our guys quit. We’re going to watch the film from this game and learn from it," Krystkowiak continued.

Despite their struggles defending the paint, not all was lost for the Utes, as offensively they had five players score in the double digits: Tyler Rawson with 14, Kyle Kuzma with 16, Parker Van Dyke with 11, Lorenzo Bonam with 17 and JoJo Zamora with 17. The Utes also improved their three-point average, shooting 45.5% on the game compared to 29% on the season.

“It’s all about having composure and stepping up to the line, making shots and making defensive plays,” Krystkowiak said. “This was one of JoJo’s better offensive games and he also did a good job of stepping up and guarding on defense. That’s what this team is about, that’s what you have to do. It’s not necessarily about one player’s performance, it’s about the team as a whole.”

The Utes move to 6-1 on the season with a big challenge ahead, as they travel to Cincinnati to take on Xavier this Saturday. 

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