SALT LAKE CITY — Easy quiz time. Utah’s season opener in the Huntsman Center Friday night was:
B) A chance for everyone to play.
C) Proof that all teams aren’t created equal.
Answer: All of the above — and then some.
Facing an outmanned NAIA Division II team from the Cascade Collegiate Conference, the Utes cruised to a 128-44 victory over Evergreen State.
“It’s the first win of the season and I thought our guys played really well,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, who was pleased with how his team moved the basketball, didn’t take any selfish shots, and rebounded well. “It was a good night in that a lot of our guys got out there and played. I think we gained some confidence.”
As expected, the visiting Geoducks didn’t put up much of a fight. Aside from an early 2-2 standstill, they were simply opening-night fodder for the Utes.
Utah pulled away for good with an early 14-0 run. Brandon Taylor led the way with nine points in the outburst. The Utes eventually built an 18-3 advantage while holding Evergreen State without a field goal for more than six minutes.
“We just turned it on. It was just a spark,” Taylor said. “When we went on that little run we just never looked back. It was great. It was like a good atmosphere.”
Although the Geoducks managed to cut the deficit to 22-11 later in the half, Utah lowered the boom again with a 35-5 spurt — this time putting the game well out of reach. Jordan Loveridge scored 14 of his 19 first-half points in the run to lead the Utes. The sophomore had a double-double at the break, grabbing 10 rebounds.
Utah led 59-20 at halftime with mass contributions. Taylor had 11 points, while Dakarai Tucker and Delon Wright each contributed nine. The Utes shot 56.3 percent from the field in the decisive first half. They held Evergreen State to just 22.9 percent shooting.
By game’s end, Utah posted even more impressive numbers. Besides the 84-point victory, the 128 points scored was an arena record. Defensively, the Utes held the Geoducks to 1-of-24 shooting from 3-point range.
Loveridge finished with a game-high 24 points and 13 rebounds. Wright and Taylor added 17 and 16, respectively.
Utah wound up with a 55-28 rebounding advantage. Wright and Ahmad Fields joined Loveridge in double-figures with 10 boards apiece.
“Utah’s a great basketball team — athletic, big and strong,” said Evergreen State coach Arvin Mosley, Jr. “They’re going to have a good season this year.”
The Utes, who have now won four consecutive season openers, return to action next Friday at home against UC Davis.
EXTRA STUFF: The attendance was 7,768 ... Utah scored 33 points off of turnovers. The Utes finished with 17 steals (seven by Wright) and four blocks (three by Wright) ... Tucker (13), Parker Van Dyke (12), Fields (11) and Kenneth Ogbe (10) joined Loveridge, Wright and Taylor in double-digit scoring ... Kyle Calhoun topped Evergreen State with 11 points.
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