SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s future made a difference in the here-and-now Tuesday night in the Huntsman Center. True freshmen Justin Seymour and Brandon Taylor made key contributions off the bench as the Utes topped SMU, 62-53.
“They played with confidence. It’s good for our program to see freshmen play like that,” said senior Jason Washburn. “It gives you a lot of hope for the future and these guys are the future and it’s looking pretty bright.”
Seymour finished with a team-high 11 points, while Taylor and Washburn each added 10 in a game where 10 Utes logged at least 10 minutes of playing time.
“It was an absolute team win,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “We needed some guys to make some plays or we don’t have the result that we have.”
Utah (7-3) surpassed last season’s win total with the victory.
Although Krystkowiak doesn’t put a lot of emphasis on the milestone, he acknowledged that seven has been his lucky number throughout his life. The number now has a spot on the upper right side of the whiteboard in the locker room. Taylor was deemed the player of the game and had the honor of updating the win total.
“It’s good. Winning is fun. Winning is good medicine for people. It helps your psyche,” Krystkowiak said. “But we really aren’t approaching this any different than we did a year ago. And we’ll just knock on wood that we can keep winning some games.”
This one wasn’t easy. The lead changed hands eight times and was tied on five occasions — the last time at 51-51 with less than three minutes to play.
Seymour then put the Utes ahead for good with a 3-pointer.
Neither team scored again until the final 20 seconds. A tip-in by Jordan Loveridge made it 56-51. Six ticks later — following a layup by SMU’s Nick Russell — things really heated up. A technical foul on Mustangs coach Larry Brown and a similar call on an assistant coach sealed the deal. Jarred DuBois made four free throws to increase Utah’s lead to 60-53. Loveridge added two more with seven seconds to go to cap all scoring in the game.
“That was just a referee trying to embarrass a team. You don’t end a game like that,” Brown, who won an NCAA title with Kansas and an NBA title with Detroit, said. “I was talking to the refs the whole game about offensive rebound fouls the same. That is a difficult way to lose it.
“That being said, you have to be smarter than I was and understand that it is a difficult situation,” he added.
Bench play proved to be a problem for SMU. Utah’s reserves outscored the Mustangs (8-3) by a 35-6 margin.
“They’re a good team and well coached,” Brown said. “We do not have a bench and their bench was phenomenal tonight.”
Taylor and Seymour fueled a first-half comeback that put the Utes back in contention after they fell behind by eight points. Taylor had seven and Seymour added four in a 16-5 run to give Utah a 31-28 halftime lead.
The duo provided a much-needed spark on a night when Utah’s starters teamed for 27 points, 15 rebounds, nine turnovers and just seven baskets. The Utes were without Cedric Martin, who was sidelined with a groin injury from the BYU game earlier in the month.
“I was ready to throw up most of the game,” Krystkowiak joked about his team’s sluggish play at times. “Now that it’s over and you can get the win, it’s a different story.”
EXTRA STUFF: Utah avenged a 62-55 setback at SMU on Dec. 18. ... The Utes return to action Friday night at home against Cal State Northridge. ... Loveridge grabbed a team-high seven rebounds for the Utes. ... Washburn blocked three shots and moved into a tie with Michael Doleac for fifth on the Utah career list with 124.