Dallin Bachynski didn't know until 48 hours before tipoff that he would play the biggest minutes of his still short Utah career.
It's not often that a coach benches a team leader and a fifth-year senior who happens to be the best returning scorer in favor of a largely untested sophomore. But Larry Krystkowiak pulled that trick on Wednesday night, starting Bachynski instead of Jason Washburn.
And now, the Utes coach looks like a genius.
Bachynski exploded against Idaho State during a 57-46 win before a crowd of 7,898 at the Huntsman Center. In the process, the 6-foot-11 center burned the Bengals in the opening game of Utah's Thanksgiving Tournament, tallying 22 points and 16 rebounds in 32 minutes.
The move was made to bring energy to the starting lineup. Bachynski did that and then some.
"I got a hint that I would be starting on Sunday during practice," Bachynski said. "I knew for sure on Monday when we were going over the scouting report and the coaches kept calling my name. I was nervous, but my teammates really did a good job in getting me the ball in good spots. I was able to score when I took my time."
Utah's second win of the season was by no means easy. In fact, for 20 minutes, the Utes seemed destined to repeat last Friday night's embarrassing home defeat to Sacramento State. Utah trailed 29-22 at halftime, displaying a stagnant offense and a leaky defense that surrendered too many open looks to the Bengals, who seemed happy to take advantage.
"We were just too rigid in the first half," junior point guard Glen Dean said. "At halftime, we just said that we have to go out and play. The second half, we played like we were on the playgrounds. We loosened up."
When the Utes did just that, the game changed dramatically. Utah (2-1) trailed by as much as 31-22 early in the second half. Then, the Utes started forcing turnovers and converting them into points in transition. An 8-0 run made the game close. Then another 13-0 spurt broke things open for good. Utah led by as much as 54-38 behind Bachynski, Dean and freshman Jordan Loveridge.
Loveridge, the freshman from West Jordan, shot 2 of 10 from the field, but he did everything else well. He secured 12 rebounds and handed out four assists to go with his seven points. He did all of his damage on the scoreboard after halftime, and he controlled the paint with Bachynski, providing much-needed support.
"We played very well defensively in the second half," Krystkowiak said. "We have this thing where we want to get three consecutive stops defensively. We have five instances in the second half where we got three consecutive stops. We started getting the ball inside and using our height advantage and we started to take the ball to the basket. It made a big difference in the way we were playing."
R Dallin Bachynski scores 22 points and grabs 16 rebounds, both career highs.
• Utah outscores Idaho State 35-17 in the second half.
• Utah wins the first game of its Thanksgiving Tournament.
Utah 57, Idaho State 46
IDAHO ST. (0-3) • Preh 1-2 0-0 2, Sanchez 0-4 6-6 6, Morgan 6-15 2-3 15, Hatchett 3-7 1-3 7, Hansen 2-9 4-5 9, Mason 0-1 0-0 0, Kusmieruk 3-3 0-0 6, Ezenwa 0-2 0-0 0, Walters 0-6 1-2 1. Totals • 15-49 14-19 46.
UTAH (2-1) • Loveridge 2-10 3-4 7, Martin 1-1 0-1 3, Bachynski 9-15 4-5 22, Dean 3-9 3-3 11, Seymour 1-5 0-0 3, DuBois 1-5 1-2 3, Lenz 0-1 0-0 0, Taylor 0-2 0-0 0, Tucker 1-1 0-0 2, Washburn 2-4 2-2 6. Totals • 20-53 13-17 57.
Halftime • Idaho St. 29-22.
3-Point Goals • Idaho St. 2-16 (Hansen 1-5, Morgan 1-7, Mason 0-1, Hatchett 0-1, Sanchez 0-2), Utah 4-15 (Dean 2-5, Martin 1-1, Seymour 1-4, Lenz 0-1, Loveridge 0-2, DuBois 0-2). Fouled Out • None. Rebounds • Idaho St. 32 (Sanchez 10), Utah 41 (Bachynski 16). Assists • Idaho St. 8 (Morgan, Sanchez 3), Utah 13 (Loveridge, Martin 4). Total Fouls • Idaho St. 17, Utah 18. A • 7,898.