Utah basketball team makes it a doubly-good day for Ute fans

first_imgLAS VEGAS – The Utah basketball team made it 2-for-2 for Uteville Saturday, following up on the football team’s big victory earlier in the Las Vegas Bowl with a 59-46 victory of their own over UNLV at MGM Grand Arena late Saturday evening.Delon Wright scored 17 points and Brandon Taylor added 16 as the Utes overcame a poor shooting first half to improve to 8-2 on the season. The Utes were aided by some poor shooting by the Rebels who only managed 32.7 percent from the field on 17 of 52. The Rebels were also an atrocious 10 of 23 (43.5 percent) from the free throw line.“It was like one of those heavyweight fights that wasn’t very pretty,’’ said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak of some of the sloppy play and poor shooting by both teams.The Utes shot just 28 percent in the first half on 7 of 25 from the field, but improved to 50 percent in the second half and finished at 39.6 for the game.“We were far more patient and stayed with it in the second half,’’ said Krystkowiak. “We talked about not rushing it. We were really sped up in the first half.’’The No. 14-ranked Utes came in hoping to erase the bad taste left in their mouth by their last game at MGM when they fell way behind early and were beaten by Arizona 71-39 in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament.They trailed much of the first half before taking a 24-23 halftime lead on a reverse layup by Wright at the buzzer off a Ute steal. That gave the Utes some momentum and they came out stronger in the second half, playing more aggressive according to Taylor.“I felt we weren’t aggressive enough in the first half,’’ said Taylor. “They’re one of the top blocking teams in the country and we kind of played right into their hands and I thought we could get more aggressive.’’In the second half, the Utes started heating up as Wright and Dakari Tucker each hit a 3-pointer to stake the Utes a 32-25 lead. They pushed the lead to 10 at 44-34 as Jakob Poeltl scored six of eight Ute points. The Utes pushed the lead to 51-38 with 5:48 left on a jumper by Taylor and then coasted home from there.Both teams came into the game at 7-2 with Utah’s only losses coming to ranked San Diego State and Kansas, while the Rebels’ only two losses this year had come against Pac-12 schools Stanford (89-60) and Arizona State (77-55).The Utes had a large and raucous contingent of fans on hand at MGM, still giddy over the decisive victory earlier in the day. They were easily a match for the Rebel fans, who clapped to “Viva Las Vegas” and chanted “Re-bels” throughout the game. Ute fans answered with loud chants of “Let’s go, Utah’’ and were much louder in the second half as the Utes took control of the game.Utah led early before the Rebels went ahead on 21-17 on baskets by Rashad Vaughn and Jelan Kendrick before the Utes came back to take the halftime lead on Wright’s basket.UNLV was led by Vaughn with 16 points, while Christian Wood had eight points and 13 rebounds.In the first game of the MGM Showcase Saturday night, No. 16 Washington improved to 10-0 by edging No. 15 Oklahoma 69-67. The Huskies, who led 40-27 at halftime, were led by Jernard Jarreau with 12 points and Mike Anderson and Robert Upshaw with 11 points apiece.UTE NOTES – The Utes were outrebounded for the first time this season 41-37. Ute forward Chris Reyes led the Utes with 10 rebounds . . . The Utes have two more non-conference games – against South Dakota State Wednedsay and Carroll College Dec. 30 — before starting Pac-12 play. The Utes will play USC on Jan. 2 and UCLA on Jan. 4 . . . Ute junior Jordan Loveridge missed his fifth straight game with a knee injury . . . This marked the first time UNLV had played a game in Las Vegas on The Strip, away from the Thomas & Mack Center . . . The Rebels play at No. 3 Arizona Tuesday night . . . The Rebels are coached by former BYU assistant coach Dave Rice, who has compiled a 78-34 record in three-plus seasons going into Saturday’s game . . . Former NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was on hand to support Coaches vs. Cancer and was honored at halftime . . . In Utah’s last game in February of 2011, the Utes lost 67-54 to UNLV. The Utes last appearance in Las Vegas came in the 2011 Mountain West Conference Tournament where they lost to San Diego State 64-50. Related Runnin’ Utes felt at home in Vegas thanks to fanslast_img

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