SALT LAKE CITY — The shots were falling for the Utah basketball team Friday night and as a result, the Utes bounced back from an off night to take an 80-66 victory over Ohio at the Myrtle Beach Invitational at the HTC Center in Conway, South Carolina.
The Utes shot 60% in the first half when they opened up a 15-point lead and finished at 48.9% for the game. From 3-point range, the Utes shot 46.7% on 7 of 15 as they improved to 4-1 on the season.
“I thought we bounced back really well,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “We came out with a great focus, we played hard and we shared the basketball. It was good to get a win. It’s a tough environment, and I was proud of our guys.”
After taking Saturday off, the Utes will take on Tulane Sunday at 8:30 a.m. MST in the fifth-place game. Tulane defeated Middle Tennessee State Friday 86-74 to improve to 4-1.
A night earlier in a 22-point first-round loss to host team Coastal Carolina, the Utes had a rough night, shooting only 33.3% from the field and 17.9% from 3-point range.
“It was ugly last night,” Krystkowiak said. “We broke down the film and we were deficient in a lot of different areas.”
Against the Bobcats, four Ute starters finished in double figures with Timmy Allen leading the way with 19 points, while Both Gach scored 18, Rylan Jones had 17 and Riley Battin 10. Mikael Jantunen added 8 points off the bench.
Following three straight victories to open the season, the Utes looked like the young, inexperienced team they are — second youngest in the country — as they fell behind early to Coastal Carolina and ended up losing 79-57.
In Friday’s game, the Utes broke away with a 13-0 run late in the first half to go up 41-26 before the Bobcats closed the gap in the final two minutes.
For the second night in a row, the Utes gave up three points in the final second as Branden Carlson fouled Ben Vander Plas, who made three free throws with 0.4 seconds left. The night before, a Coastal Carolina player sank a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer.
In the second half, the Utes increased their lead to 17 at 55-38 by the first media timeout as four different players scored. By the 11:30 mark, the Utes’ lead was 63-44 and they coasted home from there.
Besides shooting well from the field, the Utes were much improved at the free-throw line, hitting 27 of 28, after going 14 for 25 the night before. The only miss at the line came with 29 seconds left when Battin missed the second of two free shots.
After Sunday’s game, the Utes will return home for three home games beginning Friday night against UC-Davis.