Utah forward Riley Battin will be remembered for missing the attempt that ended Utah’s run of 27 successful free throws Friday night. He also gets credit for the only basket the Utes made in their last 12 shots from the field.
The ending was bumpy, but the Utes happily will accept their 80-66 victory over Ohio in the consolation bracket of the Myrtle Beach Invitational at Conway, S.C.
Utah had enough cushion after building a 63-42 lead midway through the second half. The Utes went more than five minutes without scoring, but the Bobcats never got closer than 10 points.
“We did just enough to get the win, so we’ll take it,” Utah guard Rylan Jones said in a postgame interview on ESPN 700.
The Utes (4-1) liked the way they bounced back from Thursday’s 79-57 loss to the host team, Coastal Carolina. They will meet Tulane on Sunday to conclude the tournament.
After the Utes struggled to score against the Chanticleers, Friday’s game “went way smoother on offense,” Jones said. “We talked about sharing the ball more, moving it side to side.”
That explains how Utah shot 60% from the field in the first half, taking a 44-33 lead. The Utes opened the second half by going 7 of 9 from the field, before falling into their scoring drought. Utah missed eight straight shots before Battin made a layup, then had four more misses to conclude the game. But the Utes kept making free throws, which had been one of their problems against Coastal Carolina.
Timmy Allen led Utah with 19 points, going 9 of 9 from the line. Both Gach added 18 points, Jones scored a season-high 17 and Battin had 10.
In addition to Allen, Utah’s perfect free-throw shooters were Jones (6 of 6), Gach (5 of 5) and Mikael Jantunen (4 of 4). Battin was 3 of 3 before missing.
Ohio, picked to finish last in its division of the Mid-American Conference, was led by guard Jason Preston with 21 points. The Bobcats shot 6 of 24 from 3-point range.
Tulane advanced to the consolation finals with an 86-74 win over Middle Tennessee, as guard Christion Thompson scored 25 points and guard Teshaun Hamilton added 25. The Green Wave had opened the tournament with an 80-66 loss to Mississippi State. Baylor and Villanova will play for the tournament title Sunday.