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For openers ... U. continues its winning trend

Bryant, Markson lead Utah to home victory over Texas State

The Utah basketball team hasn't lost a season opener in 10 years and a home opener since 1986.

After the first half of Friday's game with Texas State, there may have been a few doubts about whether the Utes could win this year's season opener against a mediocre team from the Southland Conference.

After managing a tenuous two-point halftime lead, the Utes erased those doubts with a 21-7 run and coasted to a 74-59 victory at the Huntsman Center.

Newcomer Johnnie Bryant led the Utes with 21 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 3-for-4 from 3-point range, while Bryant Markson bounced back from a shaky start to finish with 19 points.

Despite the 15-point final margin, Ute coach Ray Giacoletti was less than happy with his team's performance and let them know about it in his postgame talk.

"We're probably very fortunate to walk away with a win," Giacoletti said. "From the first exhibition to the second exhibition we got better, but from the second exhibition to tonight, we didn't get better."

What Giacoletti didn't like was the way the Utes were outhustled by the Bobcats, who returned just one player from last year and were playing four freshmen and three JC transfers.

The Bobcats got free for several easy baskets and beat the Utes to loose balls. Perhaps the most telling statistic was rebounding as the Bobcats outboarded the taller Utes 33 to 32. That happened to the Utes just twice in 25 games last year.

"It's the little things — just guarding people and boxing out," Giacoletti said. "I told them afterwards if you're confused, that's your role."

After jumping out to an 8-0 lead, the Utes let the Bobcats back in the game and it was close until halftime when the Utes took a 30-28 lead.

Markson, a preseason all-Mountain West Conference pick, got off to an awful start with five turnovers in the first five minutes and was quickly pulled from the game.

"I was just trying to over-force things," Markson said.

When he came back in the game, Markson hit a couple of jumpers in the lane and then made the play of the night when he made a steal and did a 360 before dunking the ball home.

"I may hear about it next week in a meeting," Markson said with a smile. "I had to do that to get going."

Bryant, who joined the Utes as a redshirt in the middle of last season, hadn't shown that much in the first two exhibitions, but he showed fans he'll be a player to watch this season.

He sank three 3-pointers from the same spot in the first half, had three assists, three rebounds and two steals. He sank his first six shots before missing three late in the game and also sank all six of his free throws.

"He's going to be a good player," Giacoletti said.

Giacoletti was pleased with most of his new players, Bryant, Shaun Green, who had three steals, three assists and three rebounds to go with five points, and Lawrence Borha, who had a pair of steals and four points. Luke Nevill looked lost at times, but finished with six points and a team-high six rebounds.

"The young kids did a great job — those guys were solid," Giacoletti said.

After getting an earful at halftime, the Utes came out with more purpose in the second half. They led just 38-36 when Bryant made two shots in the lane, followed by a pair of baskets by Borha. Tim Drisdom sank a pair of 3-pointers from the left angle and just like that it was 59-43 with 8:46 left.

"It was a typical first game," said Drisdom. "The other team outhustled us, but there are some things we can do that are easy to correct."

The Bobcats were led by freshman Brandon Bush, who scored 15 points off the bench.

Next up for the Utes is Rhode Island Tuesday night at the Huntsman Center. The Rams open their season tonight against Sacred Heart before coming to Utah.


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