SALT LAKE CITY — As expected, the Utah Utes opened the season with a win over unheralded Prairie View A&M in the Huntsman Center. Friday night’s 83-62 victory went pretty much according to script — although it took time to develop.
Sedrick Barefield led the way with a game-high 22 points. David Collette contributed 17 points, while Tyler Rawson added 16 and nine rebounds.
“It was a good learning experience,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, who added that through a long season teams are exposed to a lot of things. “And in the course of one game, I’m hoping that we grew a little bit.”
The Utes never trailed after going on a 14-3 run early in the first half. It broke a 5-5 tie and featured a defensive stance that held the Panthers scoreless for 3:44 at one point.
Prairie View proved to be pesky, however, and eventually climbed back into contention after trailing 19-8. The Panthers managed to close the gap to three points late in the first half before Barefield responded with five straight points for the Utes.
The outburst gave Utah a 39-31 halftime lead. The Utes turned the ball over 12 times, leading to 11 points for Prairie View in the first half. Dennis Jones came off the bench to score 16 points for the Panthers, sharing game-high honors with Barefield.
When play resumed, Utah got downright defensive and a rout ensued. The Utes opened the second half with a 19-0 outburst. Prairie View missed its first nine shots and turned the ball over five times before ending the drought on a layup by Gary Blackston with 13:13 left to play.
Barefield said that Krystkowiak spoke with the team at halftime about taking better care of the ball and making better decisions.
“We knew what we were doing wrong,” Barefield said. “So I think we made adjustments as far as handling the press and doing what we were supposed to do on defense.”
The Panthers drew no closer than 15 points (65-50) the rest of the way.
Krystkowiak explained that the Utes had 10 errant passes in the first half and cut the turnovers down from 12 before the break to just seven afterward. He said the Utes were pretty solid after discussing the situation in a timeout just before the intermission.
“It’s a mature group,” Krystkowiak added. “They understand what they need to do.”
Earlier in the week, both Barefield and Collette weighed in on leadership roles for a team with a lot of new players. Barefield noted that a lot is expected of guys returning to the program.
“We have to lead these guys by example and just be leaders out there for the guys who have just came in,” Barefield said. “(But) I wouldn’t say we’re the leaders because we have a ton of leaders on the team. Everyone is a leader in their own sense, but definitely, we expect a lot from each other.”
Collette also considers it to be a team thing.
“I think we’ve figured out everybody’s role up to this point,” he said. “I think we’ve done a really good job of that.”
The Utes return to action Monday night at home against Mississippi Valley State.
EXTRA STUFF: The attendance was 9,887 . . . Utah is now 2-0 against Prairie View. The Utes defeated the Panthers 92-60 last December . . . Prairie View is the alma mater of the late Hall of Famer Zelmo Beaty, who led the Utah Stars to the 1971 ABA championship . . . Krystkowiak honored his promise to give a $100 bill to a member of The MUSS in a “Show for Dough” drawing. The promotion is planned for every game this season.