The substitution horn sounded as Utah put the finishing touches on an 88-69 win over Ball State at the Huntsman Center on Wednesday night.
Dakarai Tucker pointed at Delon Wright, entering for the junior guard. As he headed for the bench, he looked up at the festive pre-Thanksgiving crowd. The 8,761 rose to their feet with the first standing ovation of Wright’s career.
» Utah moves to 6-0 on the season
» Delon Wright scores a career-high 23 points
» The Utes score 52 points in the second half
It probably won’t be the last.
The junior college transfer from Los Angeles dominated the Cardinals in almost every category. He scored 23 points. He handed out seven assists and came up with six steals. He grabbed six rebounds and spearheaded Utah’s defense. He was the best player on the floor.
"I think people are starting to see what Delon can do with the basketball and without," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. That’s a team that rebounds very well and we ended up outrebounding them. We had a solid assist-to-turnover ratio an Delon just made a bunch of plays out there."
As a result, the Utes move their record to 6-0 on the season, their best start of the Krystkowiak era. It was probably Utah’s most impressive win to date. The Utes never trailed and were never seriously threatened, despite Ball State making several runs at them. Whenever the Cardinals made a push, Utah had an answer.
And it was usually Wright providing that answer.
"I made some shots at the beginning of the game and I think that gave me some confidence," Wright said. "We really played hard tonight. We competed, and we played hard, especially on defense. We went with the game plan that the coaches gave us and it worked out well for us."
It was the first real bit of adversity for the Utes in this early season run. But they responded every time with a big play.
In winning this one, Utah had plenty of contributors, even with sophomore forward Jordan Loveridge struggling to seven points on a 2-for-12 night from the field. Sophomore point guard Brandon Taylor scored 17 points and handed out five assists. More importantly, he stretched the floor with his 3-point shooting.
Junior forward Princeton Onwas — making his first collegiate start — scored 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. It was his second double-double in three games. The man Onwas replaced, Tucker, scored nine points, and Utah’s defense forced 15 turnovers.
"Coach told me I was starting in the lockerroom before the game," Onwas said. "I was nervous, but this was an amazing opportunity. I just wanted to win and I’m happy we played well."
Utah shot 27 free throws because people like Wright and Onwas were so difficult for Ball State to contain off the dribble. Defensively, the Utes held Ball State guard Zavier Turner scoreless in the first half. Turner, a freshman guard, did come back to score 15 points in the second 20 minutes. By the time he got going, however, the Cardinals were too deep in the hole and couldn’t recover.
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