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SALT LAKE CITY — After a sloppy first half, the Runnin' Utes handled Idaho State (3-3) for their eighth win of the season, 74-66, Tuesday night at the Jon M. Huntsman Center.
Loveridge puts two halves together
Sophomore Jordan Loveridge has had multiple games this season in which he wasn't much of a factor in the first half, followed by solid play in the second half.
Against the Bengals — in a game where the rest of his teammates were sloppy and undisciplined in the first half — Loveridge was dialed in from the opening tip.
"That's part of growing," said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. "I think he was engaged and ready to go. There's a lot we're throwing at these guys. He's learned from it — he's got to get engaged. It was a great night for him."
He scored 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the first period, going on to finish the game with 27 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks.
Krystkowiak finds energy
Krystkowiak went deep into his bench in the first half trying to find an answer for his team's awful first-half performance. It wasn't until the second half that he found his men.
Junior center Dallin Bachynski made his first appearance of the game early in the second half and made an immediate impact. His size and aggressiveness made it difficult for the Bengals to get the shots they wanted. Bachynski finished the night with seven points on 2-of-2 from the field, four rebounds, two blocks and one big jolt of energy.
"Dallin was a catalyst," Kystkowiak said. "He got a couple looks early and made some stops. He was really aggressive. I thought he gave us some energy. He was chomping at the bit."
Krystkowiak gave sophomore guard Dakarai Tucker another chance after struggling in the first half, when he threw up three ugly shots. Tucker shined in his second showing, hitting 4-for-4 from beyond the arc and playing a big role in the Utes taking control of the game down the stretch.
"I had to go back to my fundamentals," Tucker said. "At the beginning I was just throwing it up. It was just confidence."
"Those 3's were big," Krystkowiak said. "Dakarai had a couple of jump shots in the first half that didn't look really good. In the second half, he stood up and shot those like he'd hit 10 in a row."
Still lots of room for improvement
A win is a win, but it's hard to ignore the negatives from this outing. Utah trailed Idaho State at home by as many as 15 in the first half, and went into the break behind 37-28 on its home floor. The Utes did outscore the Bengals 46-29 in the second period, but once conference play begins, they will not likely be able to get away with taking a half off.
The Utes again had noticeable trouble dealing with a zone defense. Although they broke through the zone in the second half, it's safe to assume most opponents will employ a zone scheme after seeing Utah's difficulties. The Utes will need to find a way to make teams think twice about zoning them in every contest.
"It was good for us to play a team that only plays all zone," Loveridge said. "It will help us down the line to know what we did wrong. Even though they're packing the zone, we still have to cut hard, screen hard — everything like that."
"We didn't attack," Krystkowiak said. "We got complacent. We didn't do a whole lot of what we talked about in the last couple days. There were a couple times when we just threw it around the horn three times when there were a number of opportunities for guys to penetrate. In the second half, guys made up their mind that they were going to drive it."
Utah also had another rough night on the boards. Much like everything else, it was worse in the first half, when the Utes yielded a 15-11 advantage on the glass. They finished the game with a 30-29 rebound deficit, giving up a total of 12 offensive boards.
Despite several negatives, something can be said for the way the Utes came away with the win. Once they got under control early in the second half, they pulled ahead and didn't again relinquish the lead. This is a game Utah likely would have lost last season, when it was unable to finish off teams like Sacramento State and Cal State Northridge.
"There were a lot of weaknesses in our game tonight," said Krystkowiak. "We got to address those and move on. It's about the next one. It's obviously going to be a big game Saturday."
Next up: That big game Saturday is Utah hosting BYU (7-3) at 8 p.m. The Utes will be looking for their first win over the Cougars since Jan. 27, 2009. Tyson Maddy has covered the University of Utah football and men's basketball teams as a contributing writer for KSL.com Sports since 2011. Follow his Utes coverage on Twitter @Tyson_Maddy