Gabe Madsen scores career high as Utah men’s basketball gets one step closer to a postseason trophy

The Runnin’ Utes beat Iowa and advance to the NIT quarterfinals behind Madsen’s 31 points.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes guard Gabe Madsen (55) celebrates the Utes win over the Iowa Hawkeyes, in NIT Second Round action at the Jon M. Huntsman Center, on Sunday, March 24, 2024.

Gabe Madsen’s most comfortable shooting motion must be fading to one side just after receiving a handoff while in a full sprint. He made several of those types of 3-pointers Sunday as he helped the Utah men’s basketball team advance to the NIT quarterfinals.

“I think just being able to kind of stand still and throw guys off a little bit and then come flying off, I can usually get open off that way,” Madsen said. “So yeah, I like shooting that way.”

Utah beat Iowa, 91-82. The Runnin’ Utes will play Virginia Commonwealth on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Huntsman Center.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes center Branden Carlson (35) shoots as Iowa Hawkeyes forward Owen Freeman (32) defends, in NIT Second Round action at the Jon M. Huntsman Center, on Sunday, March 24, 2024.

VCU is coached by former Utah State coach Ryan Odom, who replaced Craig Smith when he left for Utah. Former Aggies Max Shulga and Sean Bairstow, who once played for Smith, are now playing for Odom.

Madsen led all scorers Sunday with a career-high 31 points, making seven of 15 3-pointers. He put up a couple of heat checks in the game Smith felt were “overzealous.” But his coach and team have faith in him to take and make those shots.

“Do I always like it? Not necessarily. And we’ve talked about that,” Smith said. “At the same time, he knows his game really, really well. And we have confidence in him that he can get it going. Certainly, when he sees that ball go in the hole, I think everybody on the team trusts him to make those shots.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Iowa Hawkeyes forward Ben Krikke (23) grabs Utah Utes center Keba Keita (13), in NIT Second Round action at the Jon M. Huntsman Center, on Sunday, March 24, 2024.

Deivon Smith had 19 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds. It was his fourth triple-double of the season. The only other Pac-12 player to get that many in a season is Jason Kidd in 1993-94.

“I’m just super blessed,” Deivon Smith said. “Don’t really have words. Just playing hard and it’s all coming together.”

Deivon Smith grabbed his 10th rebound late in the game. He came out of nowhere to take a rebound from Madsen, who was in position for it. He said he told his teammates the prior possession to box out for him so he could get a rebound.

“Next possession, it just came off super funny,” Deivon Smith said. “But it was a 50-50 ball. I got it.”

Branden Carlson added 12 points, two assists and two blocks.

Lawson Lovering had six points and 10 rebounds.

Former BYU guard Hunter Erickson had yet another solid game off the bench, with seven points and four rebounds. In the second half, he blocked a 3-point attempt and made a 3-pointer a few possessions later.

Forward Patrick McCaffery came off the bench to lead Iowa with 19 points.