Last game I struggled a little bit. This game, the rim was just really big. I was just comfortable out there. I made the one and kept shooting. —Gabe Bealer
SALT LAKE CITY — University of Utah wing Gabe Bealer didn’t put on a dunk clinic Monday at the Huntsman Center — teammate Chris Seeley took care of that — but you would've never known his senior season was in peril just a few months ago by the way he played against Mississippi Valley State.
Four months after breaking his left foot, Bealer put on a shooting exhibition from beyond the arc in the Utes’ 91-51 win over the Delta Devils.
Bealer hit 7 of 10 shots overall and sank 6 of 8 3-pointers en route to 20 points in just 22 minutes to lead Utah to a second easy win in a row.
Bealer’s big shooting night helped the Utes rally without guard Sedrick Barefield, who missed this game due to a stomach virus after leading Utah with 22 points in the opener.
“He’s an easy guy to pull for. He’s not real vocal and (is) quiet,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said after complimenting Bealer’s shooting. “He’s been grinding.”
Krystkowiak admitted the Utes weren’t quite sure after the senior broke the fifth metatarsal in his left foot what was going to happen this season with Bealer, whom the team hopes will help fill the scoring void left by the departed Kyle Kuzma.
“Those injuries can be injuries that someone deals with for an entire year,” said Krystkowiak, crediting the Ute medical staff for its expertise in working with Bealer. “We got Gabe back in the mix. There were a lot of questions whether he’d be able to play this early in the season. To have a nice game in the second game is real important for us.”
Seeley jokingly (maybe) said it came as a surprise to him.
“It was really unexpected for me,” Seeley said, smiling. “I didn’t know he could shoot the ball like that, honestly. I was like, ‘Dang!’ But he stepped in there with confidence and kept shooting.”
Importantly, Bealer kept making those shots, too.
Bealer, who only scored three in the Utes’ win Saturday, scored 11 of his game-high output in the opening half. He wanted to rebound from that 1-for-4 showing.
“Last game I struggled a little bit," he said. "This game, the rim was just really big. I was just comfortable out there. I made the one and kept shooting.”
What makes Bealer’s effort all the more encouraging is that he isn’t completely healed from his surgery-requiring injury.
“I don’t think I’m fully 100 percent yet,” he said. “I still get soreness in my foot and stuff like that. I don’t get as much lift as I want to, but I’m making progress. I’m happy with that.”
Outside of Bealer, Utah spread out the offense with six players notching between eight and 12 points.
Seeley provided the top highlights. He had a tip-in bucket and threw down a couple of sweet dunks, including one set up via a nice long pass from former East High standout Parker Van Dyke. Seeley finished with eight points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
“Oh man, that was crazy,” Seeley said of Van Dyke’s three-quarters court pass. “He just yelled my name down the court. I didn’t even know what was going on. I was like, ‘What? What did I do?’ Next thing you know, the ball is in the air and I just dunked it.”
The game went as smoothly as you could hope for against a team that is projected to among the nation's worst. MSVU lost to BYU on Saturday 91-61. Utah jumped ahead 20-2, hit 50 percent of its shots, including 44.8 percent from 3-point range, and outrebounded MVSU 57-28.
Krystowiak wasn’t pleased with his team’s 16 turnovers, though.
“We got a little sloppy once again. That can’t be our Achilles heel,” he said. “We’ve got to be really secure with the ball.”
The easy part of the nonconference schedule is over for Utah, which beat Prairie View A&M 83-62 Saturday. The Utes figure to get a stiffer test Thursday when they host Missouri (2-0) and top NBA prospect Michael Porter Jr.
"They're a good team and they have one of the top guys," Bealer said, "so it's going to be interesting just to see how we match up against another good team."