Thursday night’s game served as the “Huntsman Strong” game at the Jon M. Huntsman Center. The university honored longtime supporter, fan, donor and local billionaire philanthropist Jon M. Huntsman Sr. who died last Friday. Huntsman was 80.
A video tribute to Huntsman played on the video board prior to the game, and a jersey with the number 1 and “HUNTSMAN” on the back with a patch featuring the initials “JH” and the years 1937-2018 was put on an empty seat courtside along with a framed picture of Huntsman giving a thumbs-up.
Utes players’ uniforms featured that same patch, and the coaches had it on their lapels. The empty seat and jersey is expected to remain throughout home games for the rest of the season.
Huntsman, who’d survived his own bout with cancer, founded the Huntsman Cancer Institute on the Utah campus. The Utes also held their annual “Teddy Bear Toss” at halftime, where fans were asked to toss teddy bears on the court as donations in conjunction with the Huntsman Cancer Institute.
Utes freshman forward Donnie Tillman wasn’t in uniform on Thursday night. He sat on the bench in street clothes during the game. Tillman has missed six games this season after suffering a sprained foot in early December. He’d missed four games before making a brief return to the lineup for one game against Arizona. He then missed the next two games. However, Tillman had played the past six games. His status was believed to be day-to-day.
The Utes didn’t attempt a single free throw in the first half of last week’s loss at Colorado, a game in which they scored just 20 first-half points and a season-low 55 points for the game.
“That’s what I mean by finding another way to score,” Utes senior guard Justin Bibbins said. “I mean if our shots aren’t falling from 3, trying to get to the line and get easy two-point conversions. I think we get into the 1-and-1 early in the game and then we can’t get to the line. I think that’s something to focus on — attacking more, but just being smart while attacking.”
The Utes will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Utes run to the 1998 Final Four on Saturday in the Huntsman Center. Members of the 1998 team will sign autographs in the concourse between doors 3 and 4 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. There will also be a ceremony to recognize the team and commemorate the anniversary at halftime of the game against California.