OREM — Most of the Utah prep spotlight has shone on Lone Peak in the early season, and justifiably so, but maybe some of that limelight should be focused on Orem. In just its second game of the year, Orem blew out Foothill (Las Vegas) 82-57. It was the second dominating performance in two nights over stellar out-of-state teams in the Great Western Shootout tournament.
“We believe we have a special team, and I like how we’ve started the season,” assessed Orem coach Golden Holt. “We have some improvements we can make and we’re a little rusty in some areas, but I like our focus and I like where we’re headed.”
If Orem was a bit rusty, it was hard to tell through one half of play. The Tigers tore apart the Falcons' full-court pressure and built a 48-30 lead into the locker room. BYU commit Dalton Nixon led the way with 14 first half points with Jordan Darger adding 10.
Orem came out a bit sluggish in the second but settled down and scored the final nine points of the third quarter to take a 61-44 lead into the fourth. From there it cruised to a comfortable victory and emptied the bench for the final period.
“That was a good team we played tonight,” Holt said. “I think with it being our second game of the year that we needed to adjust to some things, but once we did we were fine. (Foothill) changed some things on us in the second half that we hadn’t seen, so it was just one of those things we had to figure out, but I’m proud of how our guys adjusted.”
Nixon finished with a game-high 28 points and looks markedly improved from his MVP performance last season. The 6-foot-8 junior showcased a more-polished inside game on offense and a dominating presence defensively.
“Dalton is becoming a man,” Holt said. “Most people don’t realize that he’s still just 16 years old and he's almost a full year behind other kids in his same class. He’s an exceptional talent that is just getting better and better every time he steps on the court.”
Holt’s son, Cooper Holt, stepped up big in the second half and finished with 18 points.
“I challenged (Cooper) early because I thought he got a little loose on a couple of plays and I get to yell more at him because I’m his dad, but I’m very proud of how he responded,” the coach said. “He got a big dunk for us in the second half and just got tougher.”
Next up for Orem is Lone Peak, who it beat last year in the same tournament. Many regard the Knights as being unbeatable in-state and maybe nationally, but the Tigers feel otherwise.
“Lone Peak is obviously a great team and deserves every bit of recognition that they’ve received, but we’re good too,” Holt said. “We’re the two best teams in the state and that’s why we scheduled Lone Peak again this year. I’ll match my team against anyone, and they’re not going to back down tomorrow night.”
Orem will tip off against Lone Peak on its home floor Saturday night at 5 p.m. MST.