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Sedrick Barefield, Gabe Bealer spark Utes with strong play off the bench in win over Cougars

SALT LAKE CITY — Tyler Rawson got most of the attention Sunday night for his 22-point performance that included 6 of 7 from 3-point range and a spectacular dunk on a lob from Justin Bibbins late in the game.

It was a couple of reserves, however, who made a huge difference in Utah’s comfortable 82-69 victory over Washington State Sunday night at the Huntsman Center.

It might be a stretch to call Sedrick Barefield and Gabe Bealer reserves, since both have started the majority of Ute game this year. But both went to the bench for different reasons and both were ready to spark the Utes when they needed it Sunday.

Barefield, the junior guard who transferred from SMU last year, finished with 14 points with a pair of 3-pointers, while Bealer, a senior forward, scored 15 points on 6 of 11 shooting, including three 3-pointers.

Over the last three games, Barefield had struggled, scoring just six points while shooting an abysmal 1 for 16 from the field, 0 for 8 from 3-point range.

Then one night last week, coach Larry Krystkowiak said he woke up in the night with the idea to bring Barefield out of his funk. Bring him off the bench.

“I just thought, man, he’d be a heck of a punch coming off the bench,” the Ute coach said. “He was excited about it and there wasn’t a whole lot of disappointment in his voice about coming off the bench and taking on that role.”

Barefield made an impact soon after replacing Parker Van Dyke just over five minutes into the game.

He sank a 3-pointer from the right angle, his first three since the Arizona State game, and followed it with a pair of free throws and a drive from the left side to the basket to make it 24-15 for the Utes. In the second half, he sank another 3-pointer soon after entering the game and added another basket and two more free throws.

“I’ve had some games where I struggled early, so (Krystkowiak) came to me about coming off the bench to give the team some scoring and energy off the bench,” Barefield said. “So it’s really whatever he asks of me I’ll accept it. I think it’s best for the team right now, and I’ll embrace it.”

Krystkowiak said Bealer lost some playing time because of a knee injury, but he was happy with his attitude after some recent off-games. In Pac-12 play, Bealer was averaging just 2.3 points on 21.7 percent shooting.

“A guy like Gabe could go one of two directions. You could throw the towel in or you could come in the next week of practice and grind and prove you want to be a part of it," Krystkowiak said. "He handled it the right way and took care of his business and competed really well and got some time.”

UTE NOTES: The Utes head back out on the road this week for games at Arizona State Thursday night and Arizona on Saturday afternoon. … Jeff Pollard, a former standout for Bountiful High School, is one of the Cougars’ top reserves. The 6-9 forward, who came into the game averaging 5.6 points and 2.6 rebounds in 15 minutes per game, missed his only two shot attempts in 11 minutes Sunday. … Washington State had technical fouls called on players Carter Skaggs and Robert Franks, both after each had made baskets. … The Utes were outrebounded 36-35. … The Utes play at Washington State on Feb. 17.