From his vantage point on the Red team’s bench in the first half of Tuesday night’s scrimmage, Utah basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak watched the Utes defend well and miss all kinds of shots as the teams combined to go 0 for 18 from 3-point range.
From seats at the scorers table and then across the court, eating popcorn with his family, Krystkowiak saw his players pour in a bunch of 3-pointers, going 12 of 26 in the second half as the teams combined to score 26 points in about two minutes.
Conclusions? The Utes look like a lot of college basketball teams, with mixed results at this stage of preseason practice. The annual Night with the Utes featured a 32-minute intrasquad scrimmage for the men’s team (and a 12-minute session for the Utah women). The session at the Huntsman Center gave Krystkowiak’s players a chance to figure out some things, three weeks before the Nov. 5 season opener at Nevada.
The White rallied for a 67-64 victory, a result complicated by some trades of players at halftime. The biggest clues about Utah’s personnel came via the Red’s starting lineup: sophomores Timmy Allen, Riley Battin and Both Gach and freshmen Rylan Jones and Branden Carlson. “That’d be a good starting point,” Krystkowiak acknowledged. “At this point, I like that group.”
Those five stayed together for a half, with some substituting, and the White actually took a 25-24 lead at the break. The Red dominated initially, before “they got selfish,” Krystkowiak said, “and guys didn’t believe Matt [Van Komen] could block shots.”
Van Komen, the 7-foot-4 freshman from Pleasant Grove, appears deserving of some role this season. “Maybe two weeks ago, I was inclined to think Matt might be a redshirt guy,” Krystkowiak said, “but he just keeps getting better in practices.”
Playing for each team, Van Komen finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and six blocks. Battin also made a second-half switch and totaled 19 points and nine rebounds. Jones posted nine points and eight assists and another freshman, Mikael Jantunen, had 12 points and eight rebounds.
Jaxon Brenchley’s steal and layup gave the White a 65-64 lead and Battin made two clinching free throws.
Utah will have two more weeks of practice before hosting UT-Tyler in an Oct. 30 exhibition game. The Utes have been short-handed in the first half of October with injuries to Jones and Gach, their primary ballhandlers, and Jantunen and forward Lahat Thioune missed time after bumping heads.
And Krystkowiak has dealt with the inconsistency that stems from inexperience. “A couple guys have a great practice,” he said, “and then the next day, it’s like, ‘What just happened?’ ”
Same story with coach Lynne Roberts’ women’s team. “A lot of three steps forward and one step back,” she said. “Some days we look good and some days you’re like, ‘Oh, my goodness.’ But I’ve done this long enough to know that’s pretty normal.”
Injuries and conflicts with night classes reduced Roberts’ roster to seven players for the brief scrimmage against the program’s practice squad of male players. Freshman guard Bryanna Maxwell was impressive, making three 3-pointers to score 11 points in a 30-16 win.
The Utes will host Westminster College in an Oct. 31 exhibition and open the season Nov. 5 at Cincinnati.