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SALT LAKE CITY — In Utah's first road test of the season, the first of a back-to-back game as part of the Sunshine Slam, Boston College threw everything at the Utes to test them.
Every time Utah tried to pull away in a game the Runnin' Utes were favored by 6 points, Boston College battled back to keep it a one- or two-possession game. But Craig Smith and his Utah team remained undeterred down the stretch and made some clutch free throws in the final minute to edge out the Eagles 68-61 Saturday afternoon in Daytona Florida.
David Jenkins Jr. went 3 of 4 and Riley Battin went a perfect 4 of 4 from the free-throw line in the final minute of play to keep the Utes on top after having to battle back from a 2-point halftime deficit. Utah (4-0) shot 92% from the charity stripe on the night.
The highlight of the night came when Marco Anthony dribbled down the baseline, split defenders with an entry pass to Branden Carlson, who emphatically slammed the ball home to give the Utes enough momentum to ride out the clock.
"It was a good win for us. It was a lot of things didn't go our way — some of that was self-inflicted, some of that is a credit to Boston College," Utah head coach Craig Smith said. "They made some big-time plays.
"A lot of good things; a lot of things that we need to clean up and we need to clean up in a hurry."
The Utes struggled to get into much of an offensive rhythm for a majority of the night, despite shooting 46% from the field and 38% from 3-point range. Utah, however, managed 17 assists on 25 made baskets.
The Utes were led in scoring by Carlson and Jenkins in the win — both finished with 13 points apiece. Carlson added three rebounds and two assists in the Saturday battle.
Utah led by as much as 7 points in the first half before "selfish" play creeped into the offensive strategy, according to Smith, who said his team tried to go one-on-one with a Boston College team that limited much of what Utah wanted to do. As a result, the Eagles closed out the opening half on a small 5-0 run to take a 2-point lead at the break.
But Utah made some halftime adjustments, played connected on the offensive end and came away with a neutral court win.
Boston College (3-2) was led in scoring by Jaeden Zackery's 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field, including 3-of-4 from the 3-point line. Zackery had yet to make a 3-pointer this season but had multiple against the Utes.
Utah has a quick turnaround before a Sunday afternoon matchup against either Tulsa or Rhode Island at 5:30 p.m. MT in Daytona, Florida. The game will be broadcast on FloHoops.