What exactly can be gleaned from the University of Utah pounding a low-major opponent is up for debate, but here is what is not up for debate.
After an 18-point loss to BYU on Dec. 12, then having to survive a late rally Tuesday night vs. Utah Valley, Friday night vs. the University of Idaho went as scripted. The Utes took care of the glass, a problem that has popped up early this season, the overall effort was better, and the outcome was never in doubt as Utah defeated the Vandals, 79-41, at an empty Huntsman Center.
• Utah trailed Idaho, 3-2, then never again as it rolled to a 79-41 win to move to 4-1 on the season.
• Junior wing Timmy Allen scored a game-high 22 points on 6-for-13 shooting and 8 for 8 from the foul line.
• Eleven of the 13 Utes that played scored.
Timmy Allen’s season-high 22 points on 6-for-13 shooting paced the Utes to 46.2% shooting in the first half, although a 26.1% mark from 3-point range for the night left something to be desired. The junior wing hauled in a team-high six rebounds as Utah was plus-10 rebounding after registering a negative differential in consecutive games vs. Idaho State, BYU and Utah Valley.
“It’s hard to find a rhythm,” 10th-year head coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “For us, we need to play the game right way. We need to continue to execute, find the open guy, share the ball. It really should’ve been a 20-plus assist night, but the right plays were made and I thought we did a terrific job. We were dialed in defensively, and everyone needs to be a part of that.”
Added sophomore point guard Rylan Jones: “We just wanted to come out and play extremely physical. Just play tough, play hard, play harder than the other team, and we did that from the tip. We wanted to play tough, play hard, and we did that.”
It didn’t take long for Utah (4-1) to assume control, and it took even less time to realize it would be the Utes’ night. Allen, 1 for 5 from deep on the season entering the night, hit a triple at the 17:38 mark, then hit another 1:12 later to put the Utes ahead, 8-3.
It got no better for Idaho, which is now 0-5 and has had four other games canceled due to COVID-19, including a trip earlier this week to No. 1 Gonzaga.
Eleven of the 13 Utes that played scored at least one point. Jones had seven assists against zero turnovers while playing to a plus-35 rating in just 22 minutes. Lightly-used redshirt sophomore forward Lahat Thioune grabbed a career-high nine boards, and Krystkowiak was able to go all the way to the end of his bench to get a better look at what he has with Pac-12-play looming.
“From my seat, that might be best part of the night because when you’re able to do that, it means the starters are taking care of business,” Krystkowiak said of the ability to go deep into his bench. “I thought we were focused to start both halves, we did a really good job defending that team.”
Junior college transfer Jordan Kellier (12 minutes), redshirt wing Brendan Wenzel (seven minutes) and sophomore guard Jaxon Brenchley (13 minutes) all saw their first extended minutes of the season with Utah’s lead ballooning to as many as 43 points with 8:31 to play in the game.
Friday marked Utah’s final nonconference game, at least for now, as Krystkowiak has not ruled out adding one more down the line, even if it comes in the middle of the conference schedule, which will begin Tuesday at Arizona State.
Beyond Tuesday, Krystkowiak has said he will give his players some time off around the holidays ahead of a Dec. 31 contest at UCLA, but when asked Thursday whether or not he would keep his players on campus in an effort to mitigate COVID-19, he balked. Utah dealt with a virus outbreak last month in which at least nine players contracted it.
“We’ve got that under control,” Krystkowiak said Thursday. “Our guys will handle their business. We’re making sure everybody’s safe and we’ve got a good plan, and some of this is going to stay between our walls as to how we’re going to handle our business. We’re definitely taking precautions and will be doing the right thing.”