Utah Utes basketball: Michigan beats Utah 75-64 and improves to 7-2
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Utah's Jim Boylen bent his knees and crouched into a defensive stance on the sidelines during Michigan's first possession Friday night.
He looked like he was imploring his team to play defense. In that moment, although he didn't know it, it had already begun to be a long night.
It didn't get much better from there, as Michigan started the game playing well and never relented, beating Utah 75-64 in Crisler Arena.
Utah's problems started early. Within the first four minutes, Utes starting center Jason Washburn had picked up two fouls. His replacement, 7-foot-3 David Foster, was also in foul trouble with 8:33 left in the first half.
"Our big guys are a big part of our team," said Boylen, an East Grand Rapids, Mich., native and former Michigan State assistant coach. "When they are both sitting next to me, it's not a good thing."
Last year, Foster had caused trouble for Michigan, blocking five shots. On Friday night, he spent most of the first half on the bench and finished with no blocks and no points.
Doing so opened up the middle for Michigan. It let Wolverines sophomore point guard Darius Morris cut through the lane and dissect the Utah defense.
It let Michigan also use the pick-and-roll and back-door cuts — staples of Michigan coach John Beilein's offense — to perfection.
Utah (6-3) had no answers for Morris, who had 19 points, 10 assists and picked apart the Utes. In the first half, Morris went on his own seven-point run to give Michigan (7-2) a 31-13 lead and control of the game before halftime.
"Obviously it helps me dealing with the 7-footers in there, it makes it a little bit easier," Morris said of having Washburn and Foster in foul trouble. "But I like it when the 7-footers are in there as well because if you drive it at them I can pass off to teammates.
"I can drop down to Jordan (Morgan) or maybe they'll collapse or drop to the wings and our two-guard."
That happened often. Morris found redshirt freshman forward Jordan Morgan, who had 11 points. He found Michigan freshman forward Tim Hardaway Jr., who had 17 points.
It was back-to-back 3-pointers by Hardaway sandwiching a Chris Kupets 3-pointer midway through the second half that gave Michigan a 17-point lead, 54-37.
"Those were huge plays to keep the momentum in their favor and keep them going in the right direction," Boylen said. "I thought they played well together."
The Utah offense wasn't much better than its defense, especially in the first half.
Utah turned the ball over 14 times in the first half, which led to 19 Michigan points. The biggest culprit was guard Josh Watkins, who had five turnovers. It left Utah disjointed and a little confused.
In the first half, Utah had as many turnovers as defensive rebounds.
"I thought that really hurt us," Boylen said. "You have to credit (Michigan) with that. I thought we played really tentative.
"We weren't sharp early, didn't make the extra pass early and it hurt us. It hurt us."
Utah discovered itself in the second half, but had to climb out of a 17-point deficit.
The Utes never really came close. They trailed by double digits for the final 30 minutes, 35 seconds Friday and trailed by as much as 22 points, 62-40, with 10:01 left in the second half.
Utah was led by Jay Watkins, who had 12 of his 17 points in the second half, and Detroit native Will Clyburn, who had 11 points.
By the time Utah's leading scorers really got going, the game was pretty much over.
"They just played better than us tonight," Clyburn said. "We didn't play like we should have.
"We didn't bring our game to the table."
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