Nobody will ever mistake Grand Canyon for UCLA. Or Washington. Or anyone in the Pac-12, for that matter.
Still, the Antelopes presented a good test for Utah on Thursday night in the first leg of the Global Sports Hoops Showcase at the Huntsman Center. Or at least a better test for the Utes than Evergreen State or UC-Davis proved to be.
Before 6,286, Grand Canyon rolled out an athletic team, one with multiple scorers. The Antelopes got into Utah defensively. They forced turnovers. Yes, the Utes prevailed 79-54 and were never seriously challenged. But, even for brief moments, Grand Canyon gave Utah a bit of pause.
“They were the first team to get in our face and challenge us,” Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “It was a good test to see how we reacted when a team kind of got up and tried to take away some of the stuff that we tried to do. That’s part of the reason that we had so many turnovers in the first half.”
Ultimately, Utah was too talented and too athletic to be denied. As has been the case, Jordan Loveridge and Delon Wright stood out. Loveridge — the sophomore forward from West Jordan — scored 15 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. It’s his third consecutive double-double to start the season, and he controlled the paint.
Wright, a junior from Los Angeles, scored 17 points, grabbed five rebounds and handed out four assists. He penetrated the lane at will, either making plays for himself or finding a teammate on the perimeter for an open shot. Defensively, he stole the ball three times. He made all eight shots that he attempted.
“I didn’t take any jumpers,” Wright said. “So I feel like I should make all of my lay-ups.”
Utah began the game with 11 consecutive points. With that, the Utes never felt seriously threatened again. They led by as much as 26 points. Most encouraging, they received big games from some of their role players.
Freshman guard Parker Van Dyke — the former East High star — scored a career-high 12 points in 18 minutes. Junior center Dallin Bachynski played his first game of the season and contributed 10 rebounds in 12 minutes. Both were active and both made an impact off the bench.
“Parker’s been ahead of the curve for a freshman,” Krystkowiak said. “He’s leading in practice defensively, and he’s been pretty mature. Dallin did just what we needed him to do tonight. We want him to provide some energy. He’s coming off the high ankle sprain and he’s had fresh legs.”
Utah will play Lamar on Friday night in the second game of the three day tournament.
O Utah improves to 3-0 on the season.
• Jordan Loveridge scores 15 points and grabs 15 rebounds.
• Former East High star and Utah freshman Parker Van Dyke scores a career-high 12 points.