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Green steps up in Utes' victory over Rhode Island

Utah freshman center Luke Nevill reaches high for a rebound Tuesday.
Utah freshman center Luke Nevill reaches high for a rebound Tuesday.
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News

It's not often a freshman is counted on to lead the way down the stretch, but that's what happened in Utah's 66-50 victory over Rhode Island Tuesday night at the Huntsman Center.

The Utes were trailing with less than 10 minutes to go when freshman Shaun Green led an 11-0 run that turned into a game-finishing 25-8 stretch.

Green, a true freshman from Olympus High, didn't have an eye-popping game according to the stat sheet, but he did all the "little things" that coach Ray Giacoletti talks about to help lead the Utes to their second straight victory.

"We're going to him when we're trying to make a run; that tells you what kind of freshman he is," Giacoletti said. "He can really pass the ball, he stretches the defense because he can shoot the ball. But it's the little things that has impressed our staff more than anything."

The Utes were in danger of losing to a team picked to finish in the lower half of the Atlantic 10 Conference, trailing by one at halftime and 42-41 with 9:46 left in the game.

Jonas Langvad sank a 3-pointer and Bryant Markson made a pair of free throws. Then Green went to work.

Following a Ram miss, URI's Darrell Harris grabbed the rebound and looked to have an easy putback. However, the 6-foot-8 Green went high to block the shot by his 6-10 opponent and at the other end Markson dunked home a miss and was fouled.

Then, after a Ram turnover, Green knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key and just like that it was 52-42 and the Utes were on their way.

Green brushed off his two big plays, saying he was lucky more than anything.

"I got caught in a bad spot and was trying to go up and foul him and I blocked it," he said. "I had the bank shot and the blocked shot."

The Ute scoring was led by senior Bryant Markson, who finished with 17 points on 6-of-12 from the field and 5-of-5 from the line. He was tickled with the play of Green, who started at the other forward spot.

"He was big tonight," said Markson. "I love passing the ball to him, because I feel like I'm going to get an assist every time. He stepped up big-time."

Besides Markson and Green, Langvad finished in double figures with 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting, including a pair of 3-pointers. Johnny Bryant, who scored 21 in the season opener against Texas State, only had six points, but he concentrated on shutting down freshman sharpshooter Jimmy Baron, son of Ram coach Jim Baron, who led Rhode Island with 16 points. However, after making back-to-back 3s to pull the Rams to within two at 39-37, he didn't even get a shot off against Bryant until late in the game when the Utes were up by 15.

The Utes looked lethargic in the first half when they fell behind 24-23 at the break after leading by six early on.

Senior point guard Tim Drisdom looked more like a freshman at times and struggled much of the night. Twice he passed up shots with the shot clock running down, forcing the Utes to turn the ball over on clock violations. Drisdom, who went scoreless, didn't leave the bench for the final 15 minutes and it wasn't because of injury.

"We just got in a flow with the guys we had in and just went with those guys as long as we could," said Giacoletti. "Tim was a good teammate on the bench, though."

JC transfer Ricky Johns got some big minutes in Drisdom's place and played well, scoring six points and grabbing a team-high six rebounds with a couple of assists.

"Ricky took a step toward becoming a college basketball player at this level," Giacoletti said.

The Utes go on the road, though not that far, for their next game Saturday night at Weber State. The Wildcats are off to a 2-0 start with a road win over Boise State Monday night and have another game against Montana Tech tonight.