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Trending: Collette and Barefield debut; Utes spend Christmas in paradise

Trending: Collette and Barefield debut; Utes spend Christmas in paradise

(Nick Wagner, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utes only played one game last week, blowing out Prairie View A&M 92-60 on their home court, but storylines were abundant.

Sedrick Barefield and David Collette made their much-anticipated debuts for Utah, and Kyle Kuzma (again) approached a triple-double stat line. The Utes held Prairie View A&M to 2-for-19 from 3-point land, their best effort of the season. No, “this isn’t,” as one fan was heard to mutter, “(Hall of Famer and former A&M and Utah Stars) Zelmo Beatty’s Prairie View A&M,” but Saturday’s win got the Utes back on track. All that and more is featured here on this week’s Runnin’ Utes trending:

Utah gets back on track, and Barefield and Collette debut

Angry BYU and Utah fans, upset with any storyline that included the Runnin’ Utes achieving some sort of “moral victory” in the loss to Xavier will not have to read or hear anything similar this week. The Utes (7-2) are now at full strength with the additions of transfers David Collette (Utah State) and Sedrick Barefield (Southern Methodist). They managed one of their better offensive performances of the year in the 92-60 dismantling of Prairie View A&M (2-10), while holding the Panthers to just 38.1 percent from the field, and 10.5 percent from three.

A win was expected, but the real storylines revolved around the debut of Collette and Barefield. Collette, a junior who hadn’t played since the 2014-15 season with Utah State, scored 11 points and pulled down nine rebounds in just 17 minutes of play. The Murray, Utah, product got into early foul trouble but managed to get into a flow in the second half.

“I’ve been through this before,” Collette said. “I’ve been through the whole thing. I was a little anxious, a little nervous, but once it starts, once the game starts, it all goes away.”

Collette, a team captain, said it’s an honor to provide a little bit of tutelage to the younger guys on the squad.

“I’m grateful for that,” Collette said of his captain status. “I’m the oldest on the team. I’ve been through a season, just like Kuz and Bonam and some of these other guys; I’ve been through it and know what it’s like, and I’ve got a little bit to offer I feel like.”

Barefield, perhaps the most impressive player on the floor Saturday, played 29 minutes, scoring 18 points on 6-for-10 shooting from the field, including 5-for-8 from 3-point distance. He’s the first Ute since Jordan Loveridge last season against UCLA to make at least five 3-point shots in a game. He also demonstrated some impressive ball handling, like this play, which was erroneously called a travel:

> This is not a travel by Sedrick Barefield. But the refs see it otherwise. > > — Josh Furlong (@JFurKSL) [December 17, 2016](https://twitter.com/JFurKSL/status/810263993788923904)

“Kobe Bryant is my favorite player,” Barefield said Saturday, “but I model my game around Kyrie (Irving, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ point guard).”

The most remarkable part of Barefield’s game is the pace at which he plays. Though Utah doesn’t employ a traditional point guard/shooting guard backcourt, electing instead to play various ball handlers, Lorenzo Bonam has dominated much of the ball handling duty so far this season. With Bonam on the floor, the Utes play at a glacial tempo on offense, averaging around 67 possessions per game. In Barefield’s first game back, the Utes averaged around 72 possessions.

Pace and offensive efficiency have no correlation; if they did, every single team would play five guards, or “smalls,” as Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak calls them, and fast-break all game long. When Utah runs, however, its offensive fluidity is so much more pleasing to the eye, and the players seem to get easier looks. Only time will tell if Barefield and Utah’s running game is both pleasing to the eye and the stat sheet.

Kuzma approaches another triple-double

Utah forward Kyle Kuzma just keeps racking up the double-doubles, and in the process, keeps getting closer to triple-doubles. Kuzma has the most double-doubles of any player to play just nine games, with six, and is tied for 16th in the country at that number. The Flint, Michigan, product is also one of only nine players (per basketballinsiders.com) since 2010 to record a 16-point, 15-rebound, and nine-assists stat line in one game, something he did against Montana State on Dec. 1. Kuzma had 18 points, 15 rebounds and six assists Saturday vs. Prairie View.

The Utes, who desperately needed Kuzma’s production without the services of Collette and Barefield, no longer need to lean on him quite so often. This should free him to create for others more and get easier shots for himself more often. Utah will also likely begin to sink into something of an eight- to nine-man rotation heading into Pac-12 play; the likely candidates are Barefield, Bonam, freshman Devon Daniels, Kuzma and Collette as starters, with JoJo Zamora, Tyler Rawson, Jayce Johnson and Parker Van Dyke coming off the bench.

Christmas in paradise

The Utes now must steady themselves for a possible three games in four nights, as they make their debut in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, played in Honolulu. Utah begins the tournament with a matchup vs. San Francisco Thursday at 9 p.m. The rest of Utah’s possible opponents can be seen here.

The following graphic, courtesy of rivals.com Utah writer Joseph Silverzweig, previews the rest of the field:

> I made this for you guys! Check the [@Utah\_Rivals](https://twitter.com/Utah_Rivals) forums for more analysis on each Utah opponent, as soon as we know who it will be. [pic.twitter.com/kuVB3XwHdZ](https://t.co/kuVB3XwHdZ) > > — Joseph Silverzweig (@JSilverzweig) [December 22, 2016](https://twitter.com/JSilverzweig/status/811965535667662848)

Depending on the result of Thursday’s game with San Francisco, Utah will then face either the winner or loser of the Illinois State/Hawaii game. A matchup with Stephen F. Austin, Tulsa, San Diego State or Southern Miss awaits in the seventh-, fifth- or third-place game if Utah is unable to make it to the championship game.

Obviously, no juggernauts await Utah in this tournament, increasing the possibility of Utah coming home with some hardware. The Utes are the highest-rated team in the tournament per kenpom.com at 65, and all the advanced analytics back up Utah’s place as the favorite. Still, because of the lack of premier talent present at this Christmas-weekend tournament, a loss would be more detrimental to Utah’s postseason resume than would any victory. Stephen Lindsey covers Utah athletics for KSL.com, as well as the SLC Stars and prep sports. Get in touch with him via Twitter at @slthe3.

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