Utah dominated the boards in a season-opening win at Nevada, even with the Utes’ tallest player remaining on the bench on Tuesday.
Matt Van Komen, Utah’s 7-foot-4 freshman center from Pleasant Grove High School, is expected to become part of a three-man rotation at the position as the season develops, coach Larry Krystkowiak said Thursday. Van Komen’s debut could come Friday night vs. Mississippi Valley State at the Huntsman Center.
Two other freshmen, 7-0 Branden Carlson and 6-10 Lahat Thioune, combined to play 38 of the 40 minutes in a 79-74 victory, with Krystkowiak briefly using a smaller lineup. Krystkowiak went into preseason practice with a tentative plan to have Van Komen redshirt, so he could add weight and strength. But the coach changed his mind when Van Komen was graded the team’s most efficient player in some segments of October.
“Matt’s doing a nice job. ... I anticipate he’ll have an opportunity to help us compete in some games,” Krystkowiak said. “So at this point, [redshirting] doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.”
The Utes outrebounded Nevada 51-32. The rebounding total was Utah's highest since the 2016-17 team grabbed 52 boards in a rout of Prairie View A&M. Kyle Kuzma, now a Los Angeles Lakers star, led Utah that day with 15 rebounds, followed by David Collette with nine and Parker Van Dyke with six.
At Nevada, sophomore forward Timmy Allen's 11 rebounds topped the Utes, with freshman center Carlson adding 10. Riley Battin and Mikael Jantunen had six boards each and guard Rylan Jones added five.
“We wanted to be the aggressor and take it to 'em, especially at their place,” Allen said. “We knew [rebounding] was a big thing in the game.”
The Utes' effort defensively and on the boards got good reviews from Krystkowiak. “I was really pleased with the energy,” he said. “I thought we played harder than the other team.”
The Wolf Pack missed 40 shots from the field, but recorded only four offensive boards. The Utes’ 38 defensive rebounds tied them for ninth in the country in season-opening games.
MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE AT UTAH
At the Huntsman Center
Tipoff: Friday, 7 p.m.
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Radio: ESPN 700
Records: MVSU 0-1; Utah 1-0
Series history: Utah leads, 2-0
Last meeting: Utah 98, MVSU 63 (2018)
About the Delta Devils: MVSU is coached by former NBA guard Lindsey Hunter, who regularly competed against Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak in the mid-1990s. … The Delta Devils lost 110-74 at Iowa State in Hunter’s debut Tuesday. His son Caleb is a freshman guard. … Senior guard Michael Green led MVSU with 22 points and eight assists. … The Delta Devils are playing their first seven games on the road, including Sunday’s visit to Central Michigan.
About the Utes: Utah is hosting MVSU for the third season in a row, having won by 40 points in 2017. … Last November, the Utes led only 37-30 in the last four minutes of the first half before pulling away. ... The Utes tied a school record with 17 3-pointers. … Utah scored 79 points Tuesday in a win at Nevada, despite going only 5 of 23 from 3-point range and 22 of 35 from the free-throw line. … Utah’s only remaining home games this month are Nov. 15 vs. Minnesota and Nov. 29 vs. UC Davis.