Utah Runnin’ Utes open Pac-12 play with 81-69 victory over Oregon State

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes guard Both Gach (11), defended by Oregon State Beavers forward Alfred Hollins (4) as the University of Utah hosts Oregon State, NCAA men's basketball in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020.

The University of Utah may have had 11 days off between games, but it didn’t matter.

Emerging from the long layoff, not to mention an encouraging nonconference slate, the Utes effectively handled Oregon State Thursday night for an 81-69 win at the Huntsman Center in the Pac-12 opener for both sides.

Timmy Allen finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds for Utah (10-3, 1-0 Pac-12). The sophomore guard led three Utes in double figures, while getting the better end of what was billed as a matchup with Tres Tinkle. The Oregon State star senior scored 14 first-half points on just nine shots, but managed just five in the second half. Allen and Tinkle entered the night as the league’s top two scorers.

“It’s always fun, it’s great competition, he’s a great player,” said Allen, who went 13-for-15 from the foul line. “He gets buckets, but it’s not something I worry about. Just go out, take what the defense gives to me.

“He’s a great player, but we were able to stick to the game plan and make it tough for him.”

Up by four, but with control of the game feeling up for grabs, Allen hit two free throws, the Utes got a stop, and Riley Battin hit a stepback 3-pointer from the top of the key for a 62-53 lead with 7:42 to play.

Battin’s shot highlighted a strong three-minute stretch of play for the sophomore forward on both ends. That shot was also the beginning of Utah stepping on Oregon State’s throat.

The nine-point lead swiftly ballooned to 15 after two Rylan Jones free throws. The capper coming a short time later when Both Gach (17 points, six rebounds) split two defenders, flew through the lane and hammered home a one-handed tomahawk dunk. The dunk put Utah up 13 with 3:45 to play and elicited chants of “BOOOOOTH” from the Huntsman Center crowd.

“It’s a marathon, and you don’t win a lot in the whole scheme of things in one game,” Utes head coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “I was pleased with our effort. That was the most important thing, and anytime you get a ‘W’ in this league, it’s going to be a challenge.

“For them to come in with only two losses and for us to get the ‘W’ feels great.”

Utah opened the game trying to go right at Oregon State 7-footer Kylor Kelley, who entered the night second in the nation in blocked shots. That plan yielded mixed results with Kelley effectively shutting off the lane, so Utah had to start making extra passes.

Utah began playing smarter, more together, and the extra passing paid dividends. The Utes (10-3, 0-1 Pac-12) got open looks around perimeter and were able to cash in on them. Utah hit five of its first six from 3-point range and six of nine for the first half.

“He’s a load,” Krystkowiak said of Kelley. “I don’t think we nullified him. I actually think we were quite intimidated to start the game. It took a minute to realize the extra pass around the rim was key, but I thought the key to the game was making up our mind to guard.”

Gach’s triple from the left wing with 9:44 to play in the first half pulled the Utes to within one at 19-18, and kicked off a momentum-shifting 14-2 run. With Kelley on the bench and Utah playing with some aggression, the run ended with a Branden Carlson tip-dunk off an Allen miss, followed by the sophomore guard navigating traffic in the lane for a layup. Allen’s bucket gave him nine points and the Utes their largest lead of the first half, 27-19, at the 6:17 mark.


• Timmy Allen scored 25 points and added 10 rebounds in Utah’s 81-69 Pac-12-opening win over Oregon State at the Huntsman Center.

• The Utes hit five of their first six 3-point attempts and six of their first nine to take control midway through the first half.

• Utah yielded 19 points to Tres Tinkle, but held the Oregon State star guard to just 6-for-16 shooting.