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Utah finishes fast to outlast Utah Valley, 87-80

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah and Utah Valley started something special and finished it with a flurry Tuesday night in the Huntsman Center. The first meeting between the teams was tied with just over one minute remaining before the Utes used a late burst to prevail 87-80.

A 3-point shot by Tyler Rawson evened the score at 78-78 with 1:46 left to play. Parker Van Dyke then rebounded a UVU miss and Utah took the lead on a layup by Lorenzo Bonam at 1:09. The Wolverines failed to connect on their next possession and lost the ball when it was tipped out-of-bounds. The Utes drove in the dagger when Van Dyke made a 3-pointer with 29 seconds remaining to make it 83-78.

Van Dyke credited Bonam for a nice assist on the shot.

“It just felt good right when it left my hand,” Van Dyke said.

UVU’s Brandon Randolph responded with a layup, but Utah held on down the stretch when JoJo Zamora made four free throws in the final 18 seconds.

“What a ballgame. The air went out of the building when they took the three-point lead,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “This is a team that hasn’t been in that experience before and I couldn’t be more proud of the way that they responded and bounced back.”

Krystkowiak added that a lot of things had to come together for the Utes to prevail against a really good team.

“To be able to learn some pretty valuable lessons without having to take a loss is always a positive thing,” he said. “Especially when you’re trying to get something going. So we’ll learn from it.”

UVU’s Isaac Neilson finished with a game-high 28 points and 15 rebounds. Teammate Jordan Poydras scored 21 points as the Wolverines fell to 5-2 on the season.

“There’s a lot of stuff we left on the table that we could have done better,” said UVU coach Mark Pope. “Utah is a great team, and they have proven that again tonight. We just need to be better.”

Utah improved to 5-1 behind a balanced attack featuring five scorers in double-figures — Zamora (17), Kyle Kuzma (16 plus 12 rebounds), Bonam (14), Rawson (14) and Van Dyke (11).

“I thought that we were really, really resilient during the win,” said Kuzma, who grabbed 12 rebounds.

The Utes had a 14-point lead with 15:01 to go. The Wolverines battled back, though, to take a 76-75 lead on a 3-pointer by Conner Toolson with 2:44 left to play. Randolph followed with a jumper to extend the differential to five entering the decisive final two minutes.

“I’m proud of the way we recovered,” Krystkowiak said.

Utah led 41-36 at the end of a first half featuring five ties and three lead changes. The Utes used an 18-8 run to erase a two-point deficit and pull ahead.

However, UVU mounted a comeback to climb back into contention. The Wolverines cut Utah’s 38-28 advantage down to four at one point late in the first half.

UVU’s Neilson topped all scorers with 16 points at the break. The junior forward made 7 of 9 shots from the field and netted the Wolverines’ first nine points — making it Neilson 9 and the Utes 5 with just over four minutes off the clock.

Krystkowiak noted that Utah kind of picked its poison in opting to focus on shooting down UVU’s outside shooters. The Wolverines made 18 3-pointers in a 114-101 win at BYU last month They were 7 of 20 from behind the arc against the Utes.

Utah’s recovery over the balance of the half was sparked by 10 points from Bonam and eight by Devon Daniels. The Utes finished the first 20 minutes with a 12-4 edge in points off of turnovers — something that has been a shortfall for them in recent games. It swelled to 19-9 by game’s end.

Both teams return to action Saturday. UVU hosts Utah State, while Utah is at 13th-ranked Xavier.

EXTRA STUFF: A moment of silence was held for Hayes Tate, the 20-month-old son of former Utah football star Steve Tate and his wife, Savanna, who died from brain cancer over the weekend. … Ex-Ute Kenneth Ogbe, who transferred to UVU , was held to three points in 23 minutes of play. … The attendance was 12,457. … Phoenix Suns coach Earl Watson was on hand for Utah's shoot-around. Jayce Johnson of the Utes was part of his AAU program previously.