Utah basketball: Freshman Jordan Loveridge fuels win over Wright State
Wright State picked the wrong time to play the University of Utah and its heralded freshman, Jordan Loveridge.
In what coach Larry Krystkowiak called the Utes' most complete game of the young season, Loveridge scored 15 of his 22 points in the second half Saturday night, leading Utah to a 66-54 win at the Huntsman Center.
"It was really solid," Krystkowiak said. "... I was really fond of the way we played, once we woke up."
Wright State jumped to an 8-0 lead, but the Raiders couldn't stop Loveridge, who had scored 19 points on 7-for-27 shooting in the previous three games.
"All week, my teammates have been giving me confidence," Loveridge said. "They said, 'Keep shooting. Just keep shooting.' And they started to fall for me."
Loveridge scored 10 points in a five-minute stretch midway through the second half, triggering a 15-2 run that broke the game open.
"He's a very good player," Krystkowiak said. "... It looks to me like he's still thinking. But he made his first shot tonight and I think that was a key for him."
With the victory over Wright State, Utah finished 3-0 in its round-robin Thanksgiving tournament, which included wins over Idaho State (57-46) and Central Michigan (67-51).
The Utes improved to 4-1, after not getting their fourth win last season until Jan. 5.
This game, however, didn't start well for Utah.
Wright State turned its first three possessions into eight points. On the other end, the Utes committed two quick offensive fouls and needed almost four minutes to score.
"We were in quicksand," Krystkowiak said. "... We showed up to play just a little late."
It was 8-0 when sophomore center Dallin Bachynski stepped outside and hit a 3-pointer, but the Raiders still owned a 16-9 lead with 10 minutes left in the half.
At that point, though, Utah's zone defense forced Wright State into a series of difficult shots. The Raiders went scoreless for four minutes and the Utes took their first lead, 17-16, when Loveridge made two free throws with 5:55 remaining.
"When we went to a zone," Krystkowiak said, "we got them to stand around a little."
It was 21-20 after Utah's Cedric Martin completed a four-point play and the Utes maintained the lead by making 4 of 5 free throws in the final 3:25. At halftime, Utah was 9-for-11 from the foul line. The Raiders did not shoot a free throw.
The Utes maintained their lead but could not pull away until the final nine minutes.
They owned a tenuous 46-42 lead when Loveridge buried a 3-pointer.
On the next possession, he grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled. His two free throws bumped the lead to 51-42 with 8:09 remaining.
Moments later, Loveridge scored again, before he buried another 3-point shot.
Utah's lead eventually ballooned to 63-46 with 4:43 left and gritty Wright State slipped to 4-2 this season.
"We told our players this was the best team we've played so far," Krystkowiak said. "... They are going to win a lot of games."
Utah 66, Wright State 54
R Freshman Jordan Loveridge scores 22.
• Utah has 15 assists on 20 field goals, including seven by Jarred DuBois and Glen Dean.