All week my teammates have been giving me confidence and saying, 'keep shooting and it will come.' —Utah's Jordan Loveridge
SALT LAKE CITY — For Jordan Loveridge, it was a coming-out party of sorts Saturday night at the Huntsman Center where Utah defeated Wright State 66-54 in the final game of the Utes’ Thanksgiving Tournament.
The freshman from West Jordan High had struggled in the first two games of the tournament Wednesday and Friday, but he led the way with 22 points and nine rebounds as the Utes improved to 4-1 with their third-straight win.
“It was really good. He’s a very capable player,’’ coach Larry Kryskowiak said of Loveridge’s fine game. “There’s some growing pains that he’s going through and he’s still thinking and a little uncertain about plays. But he’s making good progress.’’
Besides Loveridge, the Utes got another strong outing out of center Dallin Bachynski, who scored 16 points and grabbed six rebounds, and Jarred DuBois, who had 12 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Glen Dean added seven points and seven assists, while Cedric Martin had seven points and a pair of steals.
“I like the balance of our team,’’ said Krystkowiak. “If you look at the last four games you’ve had a different player each game (lead the scoring). It kind of creates a team atmosphere where everybody’s fine with whoever’s got it going on a particular night. I hope what this leads to is a very balanced attack.’’
Coming on the heels of a solid 15-point win over Central Michigan the night before, the Utes might have played even a better overall game Saturday night. Krystkowiak pointed to the Utes’ rebound advantage (34-21), 15 assists on 20 baskets made, and 18 for 22 from the free-throw line as positives.
After taking a 30-26 halftime lead, the Utes were still leading by four with under nine minutes to play when Loveridge scored 10-straight Ute points to break the game open.
First, he hit a wide-open 3-pointer from the top of the key and followed with a couple of free throws. Then after a Raiders basket, Loveridge sank a baseline jumper and followed that with a trey from the left corner to make it 56-44 with 5:51 remaining.
Loveridge had only made a combined 5 for 21 in the two previous games — wins over Idaho State and Central Michigan — but finished 7 of 13 from the field and 8 of 9 from the free-throw line Saturday.
“All week my teammates have been giving me confidence and saying, ‘keep shooting and it will come’’’ he said. “I kept shooting and it finally started falling.’’
The Utes started slow and fell behind 8-0 after missing their first four shots and turning the ball over twice. Then Bachynski of all people sank a 3-pointer from the top of the key to get the Utes moving.
“I like shooting 3s,’’ he said. “I’m willing to shoot and I’m glad it fell for me. Coaches are OK with it as long as it’s a good shot.’’
The Utes still trailed 16-9 midway through the half when they went on an 8-0 run to take their first lead as Dean hit a 3, Bachynski scored inside and Loveridge hit a pair of free throws. Then late in the half, Martin made a four-point play after sinking a 3-pointer from the left corner and getting fouled to push the lead to four.
The Raiders, who don’t have a senior on their entire roster, were led by Reggie Arceneaux, who had 12 points, while JT Yoho added nine.
The Utes will head out on the road next week for games Wednesday at SMU and Friday at Texas State.
GAME NOTES: Wright State had defeated Idaho State the previous night 60-45 after losing to Central Michigan 59-55 Wednesday night in the round-robin tournament format. ... In Saturday’s first game, Kyle Randall made a shot at the buzzer to give Central Michigan a 54-52 win over Idaho State. ... While Utah was 18 for 22 from the free-throw line, Wright State was just 1 of 2. ... The Utes were whistled for only eight fouls compared to 20 for the Raiders. ... Krystkowiak wasn't happy with Utah's 15 turnovers compared to seven for the Raiders. ... During a halftime contest, a fan broke his leg when he collided with another fan, racing to midcourt to get to a large Tic-Tac-Toe board and was carried out on a stretcher. ... Saturday’s game was the first ever meeting between Utah and Wright State.