For a while it looked like neither team could score. Then suddenly, it seemed like Utah couldn’t be stopped.
Five Utes scored 10 points or more, led by senior center David Collette’s 17-point performance, and they played stifling defense against Missouri on the way to a 77-59 win at the Hunstman Center on Thursday evening.
Senior forward Tyler Rawson scored 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting and made a pair of 3-pointers, and freshman forward Donnie Tillman (11 points), senior wing Gabe Bealer (10 points) and sophomore center Jayce Johnson (10 points) rounded out a balanced scoring attack. Tillman added 10 rebounds for his first career double-double.
Junior guard Sedrick Barefield, who missed Monday’s win over Mississippi Valley State with a stomach virus, went 2-for-11 shooting but dished out a team-high eight assists.
“I was really proud of the trapping scheme that we put in place,” Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “You’ll see that team later. [Missouri has] got some big boys, a lot of size as you witnessed. They have an emphasis of getting the ball inside. I thought we did a really nice job.”
The Utes (3-0) earned their first win over a Power Five opponent this season, and did it in convincing fashion as they led by as many as 25 points in the second half against a team that was receiving votes in this week’s Associated Press top 25 poll.
The Utes forced the Tigers into 14 turnovers and held them to 35 percent shooting for the game. The Tigers played without highly-touted freshman Michael Porter Jr., who did not travel with the team to Salt Lake City.
“Porter is a great player, and I’m sure they missed his presence, but they’re still really deep — with their big guys especially,” Rawson said. “Our coaches did a great job of prepping us and really defensively prepared for them. We really did a great job on that end of the floor. That’s what won us the game tonight.”
For most of the first half, offense looked like an exercise in futility. The Utes started off shooting 5-of-15 while the Tigers were a miserable 1-of-12 and scored less than 10 points for the first 12 minutes of the game.
Neither team had much luck from perimeter, as Collette’s 3-pointer was the only make out of a combined 17 attempts in the first 15 minutes of the game. Missouri was 1-of-13 in the first half itself, finishing 5-of-27 overall.
“It wasn’t pretty,” Krystkowiak said. “We were missing open looks. They were missing open looks. What really broke the game open was we started making some shots, and they continued to struggle a little bit. We came out in the second half — I thought it was really important to come out of the locker room in the second half [strong].”
The Utes’ lead first reached double-digits on Rawson two-handed dunk off of a bounce pass from Barefield to make it 27-16. Tillman scored the next five Utes points on a pair of free throws and a corner 3 to spark a 12-3 run as the Utes took a 35-19 lead into the break.
The lead was as much as 54-29 on a Barefield 3-pointer with 13:34 remaining in the second half. After being plagued by turnovers in their first two games, the Utes committed six and shot 46 percent from the floor for the night.