The original White team that basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak dressed for the Night with the Utes resembled a starting lineup, if the Utes had opened the season Wednesday.
So the Reds' victory in the first half of the scrimmage at the Huntsman Center could be viewed either of two ways: The Utes may have more depth than ever, or they may lack a clear-cut top five.
Krystkowiak's answer was a mixture of the two theories.
“I'd say we've got maybe three guys that are really good one-on-one defenders,” he said. “And we've got maybe three, four guys that are pretty special offensively. But unfortunately, I'm not coaching the football team, where we can send 'em out in shifts.”
The White lineup of guards Sedrick Barefield, Donnie Tillman and Sedrick Jones Jr. and forwards Novak Topalovic and Timmy Allen lost 34-31 to the Red in the 20-minute opening half. Several players switched teams for the 16-minute second half, with Barefield leading the Red to a 36-25 win. The combined scoring leaders for the night were Barefield with 19 points and Tillman and freshman Both Gach with 15 each.
Allen was declared the winner of a dunk contest (determined by fans' cheers) and the Ute men's and women's teams split two 3-point shooting contests.
As for the men's team's progress, “We're still getting better every single day,” Barefield said.
By the Nov. 8 season opener vs. Maine, Barefield added, “We don't want to be figuring ourselves out, we want to be ready to go.”'
Tillman said of freshman such as Allen and Gach, “These guys just get it, man. It's just amazing, because you tell 'em something once, and boom, let's go.”
Utah’s personnel outlook has been affected by injuries to junior forward/center Jayce Johnson and freshman forward Lahat Thioune — each with a broken foot. Johnson’s injury is less severe; he’s expected to be available by the end of October. Thioune will miss about three months, Krystkowiak said.
Thioune had proven to be shot-blocking force in practice, Krystkowiak said. He may be able to return for a significant portion of the Pac-12 schedule; if not, redshirting will become a likely option.
The Utes will play a closed scrimmage against a Division I opponent Oct. 27, then host College of Idaho in an exhibition game Nov. 1.
The NCAA is allowing teams to conduct 30 practices over six weeks, in advance of their regular-season openers. Utah reached the three-week mark Wednesday and Krystkowiak said, “It's getting close to the dog days, where you need to play.”
Krystkowiak’s immediate job is to create about an eight-player rotation, after using a variety of combinations in practice. “We’ve kind of been in scramble mode,” he said. “It’s probably time to start identifying some roles.”