Utes senior forward David Collette may have proved his value most in the time he spent off the court.
Collette sat most of the first half with foul trouble, and sophomore center Jayce Johnson didn’t suit up due to an ankle injury. With Collette off the floor, the Utah men’s basketball team struggled to find offensive consistency, and the Utes did a poor job handling defensive pressure in the first half.
However, the Utes were clearly the more talented team and eventually overwhelmed SWAC member Prairie View A&M to secure an 83-62 win in their season opener in the Jon M. Hunstman Center on Friday night. Collette went 5 for 5 from the floor and scored 17 points in 21 minutes, and Sedrick Barefield scored a game-high 22 points. Barefield hadn’t registered a 20-point game since he scored 32 last season against San Francisco.
Senior forward Tyler Rawson scored 16 points and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds to go with four assists. The Utes shot 52 percent from the floor and led by as many as 27 points in the second half.
“In the first when Dave got going, we were getting stops, pushing the ball down the floor,” Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “He’s a post presence. We threw him the ball, and he scored. Obviously, we can’t do that when he’s sitting. Jayce is out. That’s another five man for us that gives a little bit of a presence in the post. It turned it kind of into small ball pretty quick.”
The Utes looked poised to pull away at moments in the early stages of the game. They led by 11 points, 19-9, after a failed steal attempt left redshirt freshman forward Chris Seeley with an open lane for a one-handed dunk with 13:23 remaining.
Collette dominated the paint and scored eight of the Utes’ first 17 points with six of those points coming courtesy of three dunks. Collette started off 4 for 4 from the floor and the Panthers had no answer for the 6-foot-10, 230-pound senior around the basket. However, Collette bailed the Panthers out by picking up his third foul with 10:49 left in the first half. He sat the remainder of the half on the bench.
The Utes failed to take care of the ball and committed 12 first-half turnovers, which led to 11 Panthers points. Redshirt junior Dennis Jones carried the Panthers, offensively, for most of the first half. He scored 12 of their first 15 points despite starting off 0 for 6 at the free-throw line. Jones finished the half with 16 points.
“It was a little different,” Barefield said. “A lot of plays are punches in to Dave, and we didn’t have a lot of those options. Having him in pick-and-roll is definitely a good thing, having him roll to the basket. We also have Jayce out, so we didn’t really have a five in. Ty is a four. Chris [Seeley] is a four. They’re pretty much pop players.”
The Panthers pulled within three points, 34-31, after an old-fashioned 3-point play by 6-foot-5 forward Zachary Hamilton. Hamilton took advantage of a quickness mismatch against 6-foot-10 Utes forward Tyler Rawson, and drove to the basket for a layup while absorbing contact.
Barefield scored the final five points of the half, including a pull-up 3-pointer from the top of the key to give the Utes an eight-point halftime edge, 39-31.
With Collette back on the floor to start the second half and reasserting his low-post dominance, the Utes went on a 19-0 run coming out of halftime. Collette scored eight of those points, six at the free-throw line. The Utes led 58-31 with 13:21 left to play and controlled the rest of the game.