As well as the Utah basketball team has played at times this year, its lack of rebounding and getting to loose balls has cost it some wins.
The Utes fixed that problem, for a night anyway, and the result was an impressive 68-52 victory over Michigan Wednesday at the Huntsman Center.
In improving to 5-4 on the season, the Utes led most of the way and broke open a tight game with an 18-6 run over the final seven minutes. It marked their second win over a Big Ten team this year to go with the 60-58 win over Illinois in Las Vegas last month.
"I'm proud of this group — we've grown up," said Utah coach Jim Boylen. "The rebounding disparity, the loose ball disparity ... we got the loose balls and that's what this team needs to do. If we rebound the ball and share it, we're going to win a lot of games."
After being outrebounded in five of their previous eight games this year, the Utes outboarded the Wolverines by a whopping 41 to 25 and came up with more than their share of loose balls.
Freshman Marshall Henderson scored a career-high 22 points, including 16 in the first 12 minutes of the game to lead the way, while Carlon Brown had his best overall game of the year with 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
"We wanted to make sure we got the rebounds and loose balls and we did that tonight," said Brown.
Luka Drca added 11 points and six assists, while center David Foster put together another solid line with 10 points, six rebounds and five blocked shots.
Manny Harris, a projected NBA first-round draft pick, led the Wolverines with 25 points on 8 of 16 from the field and hit several shots while closely guarded. However, he didn't get much help as the rest of the team went 9 for 34 as only DeShawn Sims made it to double figures with 10 points.
Henderson was on fire early, hitting two threes to start the game and scoring 16 of the Utes' first 21 points. By halftime Utah led 35-27.
You knew the Wolverines would come back and they did, cutting a 10-point lead to one at 42-41. They had a chance to take their first lead since early in the game, but Foster blocked a layup by Laval Lucas-Perry and then Henderson drove for a layup the other way.
It was still a game at 55-51 with 5:15 left when the Utes put things away with a 13-1 run to end the game.
First Foster hit a fadeway 10-foot banker from the left side of which he said, "that was huge — if that ball didn't go in I would have probably been on the bench."
Then after a Michigan miss, Brown sank a 3-pointer from the right angle and followed with a steal and a drive all the way for a layup to make it 62-51 with 3:26 left.
Until that point, Brown had missed three straight 3-pointers, but said, "Jace (Tavita) did a good job of getting me the ball and I didn't hesitate."
Over the last five minutes of the game, the Wolverines could only manage a single free throw by Ben Cronin with 1:51 left.
The Utes will face Oklahoma Saturday at 2 p.m. and then won't play until the following Saturday against Illinois State, also at home.
UTE NOTES: This was the first true road game of the year for Michigan (4-4), which earlier played three games in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, where it lost to Marquette and Alabama ... The last time the Utes and Wolverines played was in 1998 at the Maui Classic where the Utes won 71-54. The last time the two teams met in Salt Lake was in 1969 when the Utes won 117-102 ... The 19 assists were Utah's highest total of the year ... Tavita played 19 minutes, mostly guarding Harris and had three assists and one turnover ... Drca had a dreadful night from 3-point range, missing his first six treys, but he stepped up and sank one from the right angle to put the Utes up 53-46 ... The Utes hit 50.9 percent from the field (28 of 55), but only made 29 percent (7 of 24) from 3-point range ... Michigan shot 34 percent (17 of 50) from the field.
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