We ran our first three sets for him in the post and guys did a nice job of hitting him. He was really efficient. —Ute coach Larry Krystkowiak on Collette's performance
SALT LAKE CITY — In Utah’s 27-point loss to UNLV two nights earlier, not many Ute players had good outings and Ute big man David Collette was especially unhappy with his less-than-stellar, nine-point, two-rebound performance.
“I didn’t feel I played great last game and I had a chip on my shoulder,” Collette said. “I needed to come back and get that last game out of my system. I came out ready to go this game.”
The 6-foot-10 center scored three baskets in the first four minutes and finished the game with 24 points on 11-of-12 shooting from the field. And he did it all in just 18 minutes of action as the Utes cruised to an 85-69 victory over Eastern Washington Friday night at the Huntsman Center.
“It was about establishing our post game as best we could and we kept going to it until they stop us,” said Collette. As he was saying that, teammate Sedrick Barefield interjected, “They couldn’t stop him.”
Collette was matched against EWU’s 7-foot senior Benas Griciunas, a Lithuanian graduate transfer who played at both Auburn and UNC-Charlotte and the former Murray High product totally dominated. While Collette had his 24 points and five rebounds, Griciunas went scoreless on 0-for-8 shooting and had just one rebound.
“Dave’s got some pride. He didn’t play well against UNLV and we wanted to get the ball into the post,” said Ute coach Larry Krystkowiak. “We ran our first three sets for him in the post and guys did a nice job of hitting him. He was really efficient.”
The Utes, now 5-1, were coming off that stinging 85-58 loss to UNLV Wednesday night and Krystkowiak still gave his team Thanksgiving Day off. The Utes watched some film and met for about 45 minutes Friday before a shootaround.
But once they hit the hardwood at the Huntsman Center, the Utes looked like a different team from Wednesday night.
EWU scored just six seconds into the game on a layup by Sir Washington, but it pretty much went downhill from there for the Eagles. The Utes soon led 18-11 and by halftime led 46-27 as Collette scored 18 on 8-of-9 shooting.
In the second half, the Utes started off with a 14-2 run to more than double the Eagles’ score at 60-29. The Utes built their lead to as much as 33 before they lost a little interest midway through the second half as EWU closed the gap to 16 by the end while the Utes cleared their bench.
Although the Utes were never threatened Friday, the Eagles are actually a pretty good team. One of their three wins was on the road at Stanford, a team picked ahead of Utah in the Pac-12 preseason poll. They also led at halftime in a loss to the same UNLV team that crushed the Utes.
The Eagles came into the Huntsman Center playing Game 6 of an unheard-of 10-game, 30-day road trip. OK, the Eagles have been home between some of the games, but who’s ever heard of a team going a month without a home game? Under first-year head coach Shantay Legans, the Eagles are hoping the road experience will help them when Big Sky play rolls around.
Bogdan Bliznyuk, a second-team all-Big Sky selection a year ago, led the Eagles with 17 points, while Jacob Davison scored 15 off the bench and Mason Peatling and Luka Vulikic added 11 and 10, respectively.
For the Utes, Barefield scored 12 points, while Donnie Tillman added 10 off the bench and Tyler Rawson was solid with eight points, five rebounds, five assists and a couple of blocked shots.
As for that one miss by Collette, it came at the 8:10 mark of the first half. When asked why he missed, Collette said, “I used my left hand.”
The Utes won’t play for a week until meeting Hawaii on Dec. 2. Then it’s off to play a road game at Butler before playing Utah State in the inaugural Beehive Classic at Vivint Arena Dec. 9.