Last year, Renan Lenz was almost an afterthought on Utah's bench. He was largely buried on the depth chart. When he did play, it was only to spell Jordan Loveridge in short spurts. He lost confidence and could never find his footing.
Right now? The 6-foot-9 Brazilian is the answer to the pressing inquiry of who would be replacing Jason Washburn's production in the paint.
His 20 points were a career high on Friday night, as the Utes demolished UC Davis 94-60 before 10,685 at the Huntsman Center. He grabbed six rebounds. He dominated in stretches offensively and he provided Utah with a presence in the paint.
"Coach has always been telling me to let the game come to me," Lenz said. "I just tried to relax and take the opportunities as they came. I felt pretty relaxed out there."
It was an impressive win for the Utes, who at the very least were expected to be challenged by the Aggies and their coach Jim Les. But this was never destined to be a game. Utah began with a 15-2 run. The game was tied once at 2-2, and the Utes never trailed. This week, the Big West Conference as a whole has been something of a giant-killer, as UC Irvine soundly defeated Washington, and UC Santa Barbara thrashed UNLV. With the Aggies being picked to challenge for the title in that league, Utah was put on notice.
But the Utes really locked up defensively. They held UC Davis to 4-for-25 from 3-point range. They limited Aggies leading scorer Corey Hawkins to 11 points and they crushed UC Davis with a 49-27 rebounding advantage.
"We really guarded tonight and I liked that about my team," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "We knew they could score and we held them to 29 points in the first half. We did a lot of film work this week and the guys were keyed in. They came out ready to play."
Along the way, several Utes notched career highs in different categories. Brandon Taylor tied his personal best with 21 points. Sophomore forward Jordan Loveridge had a career-high 15 rebounds. He added 11 points and five assists. Delon Wright scored 12 points, grabbed nine rebounds and handed out six assists.
Utah ran into trouble once. With six minutes remaining in the first half, the Utes had Loveridge, Wright and Dakarai Tucker on the bench with foul trouble. With the Aggies making a mini-run, Taylor hit a three and Utah finished the first 20 minutes by widening their lead.
Once the starters came back after halftime, the Utes ran away with the game in earnest.
O Utah moves to 2-0 on the season.
• Renan Lenz scores 20 points and grabs six rebounds.
Utah 94, UC Davis 60
UC DAVIS (1-2)
son 0-1 0-0 0, Sypkens 3-13 0-0 8, Lemar 5-10 4-6 14, Nujic 0-6 2-2 2, Betu 0-1 0-0 0, Funtarov 1-4 0-1 2, Bozner 1-1 2-2 4, Dueck 0-0 0-0 0.
Totals 22-65 12-19 60.
Lenz 9-11 2-2 20, Loveridge 3-7 5-6 11, Taylor 7-15 3-3 21, Tucker 2-4 0-0 6, Wright 6-7 0-2 12, Onwas 3-5 0-0 6, Van Dyke 1-4 2-2 4, Fields 1-2 4-9 6, Ogbe 0-0 0-0 0, Ricketts 0-0 0-0 0, Olsen 3-3 2-2 8.
Totals 35-58 18-26 94.
HalftimeUtah 45-29. 3-Point GoalsUC Davis 4-25 (Ritchart 2-3, Sypkens 2-10, Graham 0-1, Betu 0-1, Hawkins 0-2, Funtarov 0-2, Lemar 0-3, Nujic 0-3), Utah 6-17 (Taylor 4-6, Tucker 2-4, Wright 0-1, Fields 0-1, Loveridge 0-2, Van Dyke 0-3). Fouled OutJohnson. ReboundsUC Davis 27 (Johnson 5), Utah 49 (Loveridge 15). AssistsUC Davis 5 (Graham 4), Utah 20 (Wright 6). Total FoulsUC Davis 23, Utah 17. A10,685.