Elaine Thompson, Associated Press
Utah's Luke Nevill (50) vies for rebounding position between High Point's Josh Lamons, left, and Arizona Reid on Tuesday in Seattle.

SEATTLE — You would have thought it was Utah licking its chops to play High Point Tuesday night rather than the other way around.

After seeing film of the Utes play last year, the Panthers — who are picked to win the Big South Conference this year — were quite confident going into the NIT Season Tip-Off game at Washington's Bank of America Arena.

However, following a second-half blitz that left High Point on the wrong end of a 77-64 score that could have been a lot worse, the Panthers were feeling a bit shell-shock.

"When we saw the schedule

come out and that we had Utah, we didn't think they would be this tough, this good, this early," said fifth-year coach Bart Lundy.

"We scouted a team that was a little soft that you could pressure to get them out of things. But they are tough and they are disciplined. They have a good combination with (Luke) Nevill and those guys that can shoot it."

Nevill was nearly unstoppable inside as he scored 18 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for his 15th career double-double.

"Those guys that can shoot it" were reserves Kim Tillie (4-for-4, 12 points), Johnnie Bryant (4-for-5, 10 points in the second half) and Carlon Brown (3-for-3, 6 points) and starter Stephen Weigh (4-for-8, 11 points).

With the victory, the Utes advance to play Washington on its home court. The Huskies defeated New Jersey Tech in the second game Tuesday night. The winner heads to New York next week for the NIT Final Four.

The Utes got off to a slow start and managed to take a 32-28 lead into halftime. But they came out firing on all cylinders in the second half and built up a 20-point lead midway by the 8-minute mark and coasted home.

"In the first half we were awful at times," said Utah coach Jim Boylen. "But in the second half we were dominating at times. We were in a pretty good groove offensively."

Boylen wasn't happy going into the locker room when High Point hit a last-second 3-pointer to cut the lead to four.

To begin the second half, Tyler Kepkay sank a 3-pointer from the left angle and Weigh followed with one from the right corner. Later Nevill made a traditional three-point play and Lawrence Borha sank a long three and less than six minutes into the half it was 48-33 Utah.

The lead got as high as 23 at 75-52 before the Panthers scored a bunch against several Ute walk-ons in the final two minutes.

Reid, who averaged 21 points and nine rebounds last year, led all scorers with 19 points and added 10 rebounds, while Mike Jefferson scored 17 points.

"Reid is as tough a matchup as you'll find," said Boylen. "He gets 19 and 10 and I thought we did a heck of a job on him."

NIT NOTES: The winner of the Utah-Washington game will play the winner of the Texas A&M-UTEP game next Wednesday in New York ... The other two teams that advanced to New York with victories Tuesday were Syracuse and Ohio State . ... Shaun Green who had the defensive assignment on Reid, along with Tillie, made just one basket, but handed out a team-high six assists ... Kepkay, who had family and friends watching from nearby Vancouver, fouled out with six points and five rebounds ... Former Ute assistant coach Jim Marsh, who has lived in Seattle for the past 25 years, was on hand to see his old team ... Utah improved to 4-0 all-time against High Point . ... The official name of the tournament is the Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off Tournament.

Game at a glance

Key stretch: To start the second half, the Utes scored the first eight points and started with a 16-5 run to break open a close game.

Key stat: The Utes shot 67 percent from the field in the second half and 54 percent for the game.

Top performance: Luke Nevill had his 15th career double-double with 18 points 10 rebounds.

Overall record: 2-0

Next up: Utah vs. Washington, today, 8:30 p.m. MST

Utes on the air

Utah (2-0) vs. Washington (1-0)

Today, 8:45 p.m. MST

Bank of America Arena, Seattle

TV: ESPN2-TV Radio: 700AM

E-mail: sor@desnews.com