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3 keys to Utah’s 89-48 win over Long Island in Monday’s season opener

Senior center Branden Carlson posts a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds as Runnin’ Utes cruise in first game of the year

SHARE 3 keys to Utah’s 89-48 win over Long Island in Monday’s season opener

Utah Runnin’ Utes Gabe Madsen (55) controls the ball while being defended by the Long Island Sharks’ R.J. Greene (10) at the Jon M. And Karen Huntsman Basketball Facility in Salt Lake City on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022.

Ben B. Braun, Deseret News

On an opening night where more than a dozen Division I men’s college basketball programs lost “buy” games against lower-caliber opponents, Utah didn’t fall victim to that embarrassment, blasting Long Island University 89-48 in front of a smallish crowd at the Huntsman Center.

The Utes gave up some easy shots at the rim in the first half and an 11-0 run midway through the opening frame, but otherwise were solid in the 9 p.m. tipoff on a Monday night against an opponent they were totally unfamiliar with. It was the debut of new LIU coach Rod Strickland, who has never been a head coach before at any level, so the Utes went into the game not knowing what the Sharks would do scheme-wise.

• Playing without probable starter Marco Anthony (bruised heel), the Utes jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead, extended it to 29-14 and were never threatened by their visitors from the East Coast.

Craig Smith started Branden Carlson, Ben Carlson, Gabe Madsen, Lazar Stefanovic and Rollie Worster in Utah’s season opener, while Keba Keita, Gavin Baxter and Mike Saunders were the first players off the bench.

• Aside from a five-minute stretch in the first half when Smith experimented with his lineup, Utah dominated the action. The Sharks, with former NBA star Strickland in charge since late June, outscored the Utes 11-0 in the stretch to get back into the game, at least briefly. Trey Wood led LIU with 11 points and Cheikh Ndiaye added 10.

• The Utes extended a 42-28 half-time lead to 59-35 with about 12 minutes remaining and cruised from there. They were led by Branden Carlson, who had 10 points and seven rebounds at the half and finished with 21 and 10. Gabe Madsen added 13 as Utah improved to 100-16 all-time in season openers. Smith is 6-3 in openers as a Division I head coach.