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David Jenkins Jr. drops 25 as Runnin' Utes rout Bethune-Cookman 86-55


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Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY β€” Bethune-Cookman's Joe French made the first bucket of the game, but that's the closest the visiting Wildcats would come in a game Utah dominated from start to finish.

The only thing in question Monday night from the Huntsman Center was how long it would take before the final buzzer sounded.

The Runnin' Utes didn't play their best at times and allowed Bethune-Cookman to outphysical the home team in the open few minutes, but once Utah started to get their shots to fall, the rout was on.

"I thought we played really, really well in stretches and then I thought we lost our concentration at times on both sides of the floor," Utah head coach Craig Smith said in an assessment of his team's play Monday.

It all led to the Utes opening up the Sunshine Slam tournament with a 86-55 win. The first game of the tournament was played at a home site before the team travels to Daytona Beach, Florida, over the weekend to complete the three-game tournament.

Utah guard David Jenkins Jr. had the hot hand in the opening half and scored 20 points to pace the Utes to a 22-point lead at the break. At one point, Jenkins hit three 3-pointers in a row and followed it up with another out of a timeout to go 5-of-7 from deep in addition a perfect 5-of-5 from the free-throw line.

Jenkins finished the night with a team-high 25 points and five assists in 25 minutes of action. Junior Branden Carlson added an additional 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting, nine rebounds and a block in the win. Both Gach led the second unit with 11 points, including two 3-pointers, in 17 minutes of play.

"I think that more than anything my teammates did a good job of just hitting me," Jenkins said. "I think, in general, we do a good job of finding the hot man, no matter if it's in a game or practice β€” we always noticed that. I just think that just comes back to how unselfish of a team we are and how big we are into our team chemistry and camaraderie overall."

Bethune-Cookman tried to establish a physical style of play early but found itself in foul trouble with 13:44 left in the first half. From then on, Utah was in the bonus and got free throws for every foul committed by the Wildcats, who finished with 10 fouls in the opening half. Utah shot 12-of-13 from the free-throw line to add to the one-sided affair Monday night.

In the second half, it was more of the same as Utah added to its lead with much of the team's starters seeing limited action.

Bethune-Cookman used a hybrid zone-man defense in an attempt to stop the Utes, but Utah's quick passes and overall ball movement on a night the team had 19 assists helped find the open man and give Utah good looks. And as long as the shots were falling for Utah, the Wildcats had little they could do to combat the better team.

"I didn't honestly think they were going to play zone at all, but when I seen that, yes I did get a little happy because I know we swing the ball really fast and I know guys will get open," Jenkins said.

"We just wanted to play aggressive and attack," Smith added. "It doesn't matter whether they're in a two-three zone or two-three to man. The way we play should lend itself to success that way. So I thought we handled it well."

The Wildcats, who rank 355 out of 358 Division-I teams in the country, struggled to make shots for much of the night as the Utah defense pushed the team deep into the shot clock to force unfavorable looks at the basket. At the halftime break, Bethune-Cookman shot 24% from the field and had only one player, Damani McEntire, in double figures with 13 points.

McEntire finished the night with a team-high 20 points, five rebounds and four assists in a well-rounded game for the junior guard who previously spent time at Southern Utah before transferring to Bethune-Cookmam.

Utah will resume its Sunshine Slam action on Saturday at 3 p.m. MT (FloHoops) against Boston College.

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