With two big hands and two long arms, Jordan Loveridge completed the deciding play that catapulted Utah to a 62-53 win over SMU on Tuesday night, a tip-in that gave the Utes a five-point lead with 20 seconds remaining.
In a close game where every possession proved important, that wasn’t the only big shot from a Utah freshman at the Huntsman Center.
Utah 62, SMU 53
SMU (8-3) » Cunningham 4-9 4-5 12, Manuel 3-4 2-2 8, Williams 2-5 0-0 5, Russell 6-21 0-0 13, Jones 4-10 1-3 9, Ofoegbu 0-0 0-0 0, Giles 1-3 0-0 3, Dickerson 0-0 0-0 0, Bernardi 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 21-53 7-10 53.
UTAH (7-3) » DuBois 1-5 6-6 8, Loveridge 2-6 2-2 6, Bachynski 1-1 3-4 5, Dean 2-4 0-0 6, Dotson 1-3 0-0 2, Seymour 4-6 2-2 11, Lenz 1-3 1-2 4, Taylor 4-6 1-1 10, Tucker 0-3 0-0 0, Washburn 4-12 2-2 10. Totals 20-49 17-19 62. Halftime—Utah 31-28. 3-Point Goals—SMU 4-12 (Bernardi 1-1, Giles 1-2, Williams 1-2, Russell 1-4, Cunningham 0-1, Jones 0-2), Utah 5-16 (Dean 2-4, Taylor 1-2, Seymour 1-2, Lenz 1-3, Dotson 0-1, Tucker 0-2, Loveridge 0-2). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—SMU 27 (Cunningham 8), Utah 36 (Loveridge 7). Assists—SMU 9 (Russell 3), Utah 12 (Dotson 4). Total Fouls—SMU 13, Utah 13. Technicals—SMU Bench 2. A—7,563.
Utah’s seventh win of the season — the Utes won six in 2012 — saw the first-year players make the most important contributions. Each freshman who saw time played a big role against a physical Mustangs team.
And when the pressure expanded, the youngsters delivered.
"Most of them were in middle school when I was a redshirt freshman," senior center Jason Washburn said. "You have to respect that they could stay ready and make plays when they had their numbers called. They really stepped up tonight."
Loveridge’s rebound basket gave the Utes a 56-51 advantage with a minute remaining. It was his sixth point of the night, as he battled through foul trouble and struggled with his shooting.
Fellow freshman Justin Seymour scored what proved to be the game-winner, a 3-pointer from the right corner that gave Utah a 54-51 lead it would never surrender. He scored a team-high 11 points, grabbed five rebounds and capped a great week of practice with a matching performance under game conditions.
"I honestly don’t consider myself a freshman anymore," Seymour said. "When we went on the trip to Brazil over the summer, that’s when I was a freshman. I didn’t know the plays then, and I was trying to get used to the physical play. Now, the conference season is about to start. We’ve been playing for two months now."
Brandon Taylor, the wispy backup point guard, played his best game. A rookie who has hardly seen the floor, Taylor came off the bench to score 10 points in 12 minutes. He almost carried Utah during an important five-minute stretch in the first half, when it seemed the Utes were on the verge of being blown out.
Utah avenged its loss to SMU from earlier in the season, handing the Mustangs their third defeat. Up 56-53, SMU head coach Larry Brown and the Mustangs bench incurred consecutive technical fouls while arguing Loveridge had gone over the back of one of the players in securing his rebound basket.
As a result, Utah guard Jarred DuBois iced the game with four technical free-throws that put things out of reach.
"That was just a referee trying to embarrass a team," Brown said. "You don’t end a game like that. I was talking to the refs all game about offensive fouls the same. That’s a difficult way to lose a game. That being said, you have to be smarter than I was and understand that this is a difficult situation."
Jason Washburn was the third Ute to reach double figures with 10 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots. Down 21-13 in the first half, Utah went on a 10-0 run to get back into the game. Nick Russell led SMU with 13 points on 6-21 shooting.
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