Utah stayed perfect against a less-than-demanding early schedule, defeating Idaho State 70-58 on Monday night in front of a small crowd at the Huntsman Center.
Utah led by just a point midway through the second half before pulling away.
If comparative scores are your thing, note that BYU downed the Bengals just 60-56 on Nov. 7 in Provo. BYU hosts Utah on Dec. 17.
Utah improved to 3-0, and will play host to Sam Houston on Thursday before heading out on the road next week to play in the Fort Myers (Florida) Classic.
Utah was cruising with a 45-33 lead five minutes into the second half, but then things got considerably more difficult for the Utes. Idaho State cut the deficit to a point, 53-52, with a 3-pointer with 9:39 left, then went its next six possessions without scoring and Utah regained control.
Utah played without Marco Anthony and Keba Keita and coach Craig Smith used a variety of lineups throughout the game in search of combinations that would work. In the end, tried and true Utes such as Branden Carlson and Rollie Worster made the difference.
Carlson dominated inside and out with 26 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. His driving dunk with six minutes remaining righted the Utes after Idaho State made a mid-second half run. Another big dunk, followed by a free throw, gave Utah even more breathing room.
After scoring a career-high 25 points in Utah’s 72-44 win over Cal State Bakersfield last Friday, Gabe Madsen hit a 3-pointer 17 seconds into the game, but finished with just eight points. Freshman guard Luka Tarlac made his season debut and had a nice night with eight points and four rebounds.
In a battle of former BYU centers, Utah’s Gavin Baxter had two points and two rebounds in nine minutes, while Idaho State’s Kolby Lee had a team-high 15 points and four rebounds in 20 minutes. Baxter, who has been on a minutes count, did block one of Lee’s shots (although it easily could have been called a foul, given the contact).