SALT LAKE CITY — In their first appearance in eight seasons, Utah moved past Weber State 60-49 Saturday in the final season of the three-year Beehive Classic in downtown Salt Lake City.
Utah opened up the game shooting just 20% from the field and trailed by as much as 6 points to Weber State before eventually taking a late first-half run that began with back-to-back 3-pointers by Alfonso Plummer and Both Gach. Utah built up an 11-point first-half lead that only grew in the second half to claim the win.
The Utes outshot the Wildcats 29-24 in the second half to build up their biggest lead of the game of 16 points but finished the game only shooting 34% from the field and 20% from behind the 3-point line. Utah was led in scoring by forward Timmy Allen, who finished the night with a game-high 19 points and seven rebounds. The sophomore was the only Utah player in double figures in the win.
Utah, however, had three players — Mikael Jantunen, Riley Battin and Branden Carlson — with 9 points apiece and Gach with 8 points.
"On a night we didn't shoot the ball very well — what were we 20% from three and just a little over 40% from two — but I thought there was enough," Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "In these in-state games, I think it comes down to some energy."
The Wildcats struggled to consistently put points on the board, particularly easy buckets around the rim. Utah’s defense allowed Weber State to penetrate the defense and get easy looks, but shots wouldn’t fall for the Wildcats. In short, Weber State finished the game shooting just 33% from the field in the loss.
Weber State attempted a late-game comeback on sloppy play from Utah, but it was too little, too late as time expired before the Wildcats could stage a viable threat. The Wildcats went on a 7-0 run over the last 2:28 as Utah turned over the ball three times in that same time period.
"I'm proud of our guys because we didn't shoot the ball well," Krystkowiak said. "And a lot of times when you don't shoot the ball well, you take that garbage with you to the defensive end and you're not able to get stops. Now Weber did miss a bunch of open looks, so you don't want to give ourself too much credit."
The Utes were without starting point guard Rylan Jones Saturday after he suffered an injury to his ribs a week prior in a 98-67 win over Central Arkansas at the Huntsman Center. His timetable to return is unknown.
"I thought we did an all right job with it," Krystkowiak said about missing Jones. "But Rylan ... is somewhat of a calming, steadying influence that helps dictate a game a little bit for us. It allows Both to get out and run. Missing any pieces is difficult. I thought it's good for our other guys to have to unite and grow up and take care of it and try to do things collectively.
"We did miss it, but we were fortunate to overcome it and get the win."
Utah has dealt with some nagging injuries recently and have a limited depth. On Saturday, Utah only utilized eight players and got significant minutes out of both Allen and Gach, which led to some fatigue.
"Fatigue, I thought, came into play a little bit of times," Krystkowiak said. "We had some breakdowns on offensive execution where we didn't run properly — a little bit of fatigue, perhaps — and then at point of attack, I thought, we broke down too many times in transition and guarding the ball."
Utah returns to action in Las Vegas on Dec. 18 in the Neon Hoops Showcase against Kentucky. Tipoff is at 9 p.m. MST and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2.