SALT LAKE CITY — Utah bounced back from its first loss of the season to defeat Fresno State Saturday afternoon at the Huntsman Center. Delon Wright scored 23 points and dished out 12 assists in the Utes’ 90-77 victory over the Bulldogs.
“Our guys did a nice job of taking care of the basketball and not really forcing anything. We made a number of extra passes and made some plays and had as much poise as I thought we’ve seen in a while,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, whose squad improved to 7-1 on the season. “I thought we cleaned some things up after the Boise game that we weren’t very sharp with and hopefully we learned from that.”
The Utes, who dropped a 69-67 decision at Boise State on Tuesday, overcame a sluggish start. They led 40-39 at the end of a first half featuring seven ties and five lead changes. Renan Lenz put the Utes ahead for good by making two free throws with 3.2 seconds left to play in the half. The shots capped an 8-0 run that erased Fresno State’s biggest lead.
The outburst followed a timeout where Krystkowiak challenged his team to lock it in.
"The energy that we needed to play defensively kind of showed up at that point and I think we carried that through halftime (and) into the second half,” he said.
Utah’s defense put a leash on the Bulldogs and kept them from scoring a field goal for a span of 5:37 over the first and second halves. The Utes scored 14 straight points during the pivotal stretch to pull away.
“It was the defense,” said Lenz, who added that Fresno State was getting some easy buckets early on.
“We were giving up too many 3s in the first half,” he said.
The momentum shift, Wright explained, came when the Utes locked down on defense. The junior college transfer acknowledged that there may have been a little bit of a hangover from the Boise State loss — something he felt in warm-ups and early in the game when the intensity level was low. Things picked up, he said, when they saw that Fresno State (6-4) was a good team.
Wright scored 10 straight points in a second-half spurt that led to Utah’s biggest advantage at 77-60 with 6:30 remaining. He assisted on a layup by Jeremy Olsen that capped the decisive 18-8 run.
Krystkowiak was especially pleased by Wright’s play. The guard also had six rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot.
“I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel good to have somebody out there that you can trust and can go make some plays,” Krystkowiak said before expounding on having Wright on the roster. “You’re a heck of a lot better coach when you have players like that and it’s nice. If we can find a bunch more of them we’ll get this thing on cruise control and I’ll be a heck of a coach. It’s good.”
Wright’s contributions blended into a team effort against Fresno State. Five other Utes scored in double figures. Lenz finished with 15 points, while Jordan Loveridge added 13 points and 11 rebounds. Brandon Taylor and Olsen each chipped in 12 points and Dakarai Tucker wound up with 10.
Fresno State’s Marvelle Harris had a team-high 22 points.
Utah returns to action Tuesday at home against Idaho State. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
EXTRA STUFF: The attendance was 8,189. ... Loveridge’s double-double was his fourth of the season. All of his points came in the second half. ... Wright was 9 of 12 from the field. He entered the game shooting 74.1 percent from the field, fourth-best in the nation. ... The Utes have now won nine straight games at home. ... Taylor’s six assists matched a career high, as did Olsen’s 12 points. ... Utah finished with 21 assists and just six turnovers.
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