Utes will need a deeper bench, with three basketball games in four days

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah guard Both Gach (11) fights for the ball with Minnesota forward Isaiah Ihnen (35) and guard Gabe Kalscheur (22) in the Utes' 73-69 victory last Friday at the Huntsman Center.

Utah basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak relied heavily on his most experienced players in last week’s 73-69 win over Minnesota. That’s why the Utes played only freshmen and sophomores in the game, likely for the first time in school history.

Krystkowiak went with the players he trusted the most in a tight battle with the Golden Gophers, although he somewhat second-guessed himself this week, realizing that some of them may have needed more rest. He also knows more personnel will be needed in the Myrtle Beach Invitational, as the Utes (3-0) play three games in four days — beginning Thursday night with a true road game against Coastal Carolina in Conway, S.C.

Krystkowiak used basically an eight-man rotation vs. Minnesota, keeping junior guard Alfonso Plummer on the bench. Marc Reininger, a former walk-on who’s the team’s only senior, didn’t dress due to injury. Krystkowiak used sophomores Timmy Allen, Riley Battin and Both Gach for between 31 and 37 minutes each and freshman guard Rylan Jones played 35 minutes.

“I didn't want to take a chance with any kind of breakdowns,” Krystkowiak said.

Freshmen Branden Carlson and Lahat Thioune divided the minutes at center almost evenly, with Matt Van Komen appearing briefly at the end of the first half. The only other reserves were freshmen Jaxon Brenchley and Mikael Jantunen.

“Some of the [other] new guys need to get up to the speed with the mental part of the game,” Krystkowiak said, having challenged Plummer and others to pay more attention to defense.

The Utes have persevered through wins against Nevada and Minnesota that could have gotten away from them in second halves. Now comes an opportunity to build some postseason credentials, if Utah can get past the host team in the opening round of the Myrtle Beach Invitational. The Utes will play No. 24 Baylor or Ohio in the second round; No. 17 Villanova is in the other bracket.

Last season, the Utes lost to Hawaii in the first round of the Wooden Legacy tournament in Anaheim, Calif., missing a chance to meet some higher-profile teams than Grand Canyon and Northwestern, their other two opponents. Utah went 1-2 in the event, part of a 6-6 nonconference performance.


At the HTC Center, Conway, S.C.

Tipoff: Thursday, 5 p.m. MST.

TV: ESPNews.

Radio: ESPN 700.

Records: Utah 3-0, Coastal Carolina 2-2.

Series history: First meeting.

About the Utes: Utah has shown poise in critical moments in two wins, 79-74 at Nevada and 73-69 vs. Minnesota, with a rout of Mississippi Valley State in between. … The Utes’ offensive statistics are skewed by the 143-point showing vs. MVSU, but they’re No. 3 nationally in scoring (98.3) and No. 5 in field goal percentage (.551). … The Utes will launch a three-game homestand Nov. 29 vs. UC Davis and won’t play another true road game until the Pac-12 schedule begins in January.

About the Chanticleers: Coastal Carolina has five double-figures scorers, led by Tyrell Gumbs-Frater (16.5), who’s shooting 59% from the field. … DeVante Jones (15.0) was a preseason second-team All-Sun Belt Conference pick. … The Chanticleers were picked to finish seventh in the 12-team league. … Veteran coach Cliff Ellis is 132-165 in his 13th year at the school.