Our coaches did a great job of prepping us and really being defensively prepared for them and we did a great job on that end of the floor and that’s what won us the game tonight. —Utah forward Tyler Rawson
SALT LAKE CITY — For the 18 NBA scouts on hand to see Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr., the potential No. 1 pick in the next draft, there was disappointment. He did not play in Thursday night’s game against Utah in the Huntsman Center. The highly touted freshman didn’t even make the trip, reportedly because of a hip injury.
The scouts, thus, were treated to a different kind of star power.
Utah used a balanced attack to overpower shorthanded Missouri 77-59 before a crowd of 12,064.
“Porter’s a great player and I’m sure they missed his presence, but they’re still really deep with their big guys especially,” said Utah forward Tyler Rawson. “Our coaches did a great job of prepping us and really being defensively prepared for them and we did a great job on that end of the floor and that’s what won us the game tonight.”
The Tigers made 34.6 percent of their shots, including just 5-of-27 accuracy from 3-point range, as the Utes controlled the contest.
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said there was a combination of factors.
“We dodged some bullets,” he said. “Certainly I was really proud of the trapping scheme that we put in place this week.”
Utah never trailed and had just six turnovers in improving to 3-0 on the season. The Utes jumped out to a 5-0 advantage on a basket by Justin Bibbins and a 3-pointer from Collette.
Although Missouri managed to cut the deficit to one, Utah used a 6-2 run to remain ahead.
Despite poor shooting by the Tigers, who missed 13 of their first 14 shots from the field, the Utes struggled to capitalize. They led 14-10 by the time Missouri made its second basket with 7:29 left to play in the opening half.
“It was really weird. For us, we were able to keep our defensive intensity,” Rawson said. “And even though shots weren’t going in, I know coach was pleased with how we were keeping our defensive intensity.”
Utah eventually built a comfortable lead. The Utes went on a late 19-9 outburst and led 35-19 at the break.
“What really broke the game open was we started making some shots and they continued to struggle a little bit,” Krystkowiak said.
Tillman led all scorers with 11 points. Utah turned the ball over four times in the first 20 minutes, a big improvement over season-opening games against Prairie View A&M and Mississippi Valley State.
Missouri, meanwhile, had 10 turnovers. The Tigers shot just 20 percent (5 of 25) from the field. They missed their first nine 3-point attempts and wound up making 1 of 13 in the decisive half.
The Utes came out strong in the second half and extended their lead to 25 points twice, at 51-26 and 54-29, to pull away handily.
Collette led all scorers with 17 points. Rawson (12), Donnie Tillman (11) and Gabe Bealer (10) also finished in double figures for the Utes. Tillman, a true freshman, grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds to post his first collegiate double-double.
“I was just being aggressive,” said Tillman, who noted he had a bigger, slower man defending him much of the time. “Things were just going in. I was rebounding, defending. I just got the ball and made a play.”
Eight players scored for Utah, seven grabbed rebounds and five made assists. Missouri (2-1) was led by 12 points from Kassius Robertson.
The Utes now head to Las Vegas for two games in a tournament at T-Mobile Arena. They face Mississippi Monday and either Rice or UNLV on Wednesday.