Our key was focusing on the defense and the rebounding. A lot of times the offense will take care of itself, and it did. —Larry Krystkowiak
LAS VEGAS — After opening the season with lopsided wins over Prairie View A&M (83-62), Mississippi Valley State (91-51) and Missouri (77-59), the Utah Utes are taking their act on the road. They’ll face Mississippi in the MGM Resorts Main Event late Monday night at T-Mobile Arena.
“It seems like the timing is right to get there,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak.
The Utes arrived here Saturday and will stay through Wednesday when they will face Rice (1-2) or UNLV (3-0) in the second and final game of the trip.
“Another team-building opportunity but we’ve got to be dialed in,” Krystkowiak said of the trip. “We’re in that stretch of four games in eight days. It’s a little NBA-ish right now.”
The team took Friday off, he explained, and is getting “back in the saddle without a whole lot of practice.”
In last Thursday’s victory over Missouri, Utah had five players score in double figures — David Collette (17), Tyler Rawson (12), Donnie Tillman (11), Gabe Bealer (10) and Jayce Johnson (10) — while putting the clamps on defensively. The Utes held the Tigers, who were without highly touted freshman Michael Porter Jr., to 34.6 percent shooting from the field.
“Our key was focusing on the defense and the rebounding,” Krystkowiak said. “A lot of times the offense will take care of itself, and it did.”
Although the Utes were outrebounded by the Tigers (40-34), Tillman proved to be a bright spot on the boards with 10 — giving the true freshman his first collegiate double-double. The former Las Vegas prep star is looking forward to playing there again this week.
“It’s going to be fun. I think we’re going to be ready to compete,” said Tillman, who noted that there are some real good teams in the tournament. “Just like (against Missouri), we’ve got a scouting report, and we’re going to execute when we step on the floor.”
Ole Miss faces Utah on the heels of a 77-72 win over Georgia State on Friday. The Rebels are led by junior guard Terence Davis, who averages 20.3 points per game. Senior forward Marcanvis Hymon is pulling down nine rebounds per outing.
Besides playing a team like Ole Miss, Krystkowiak made note of the additional benefit the tournament presents. It’s being played at T-Mobile Arena, home of the Pac-12 Tournament. The Utes only played one game there last year, and this will allow them to get better acclimated with the new arena.
MGM Resorts Main Event
Mississippi (3-0) vs. Utah (3-0)
T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
Monday, 10:30 p.m. (MT) TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: ESPN 700AM