Everything was going our way. —Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak
SALT LAKE CITY — It didn’t take long for Utah to unload the first sting in the inaugural Beehive Classic at Vivint Arena. The Utes got off to a quick start and never trailed in a 77-67 win over Utah State.
“We came out and made shots. It was as simple as that,” said Utah forward Tyler Rawson. “Everything was falling for us and we were making open looks.”
Rawson added that it took USU a few minutes to feel the game and the Utes took advantage of that. They scored the game’s first five points en route to a 19-2 run over the first six minutes of play. The Aggies, meanwhile, missed six of their first seven shots and turned the ball over five times in the pivotal stretch.
“It was a little unusual. I thought defensively we were really good,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “We got out in transition. Everything was going our way.”
The Utes eventually extended their lead to 45-24 late in the first half. The Aggies, though, cut the deficit to single digits after a 12-0 outburst.
A pair of free throws by Justin Bibbins ended the drought and gave Utah a 47-36 halftime lead. It overshadowed a 20-point performance by USU reserve Quinn Taylor.
The Aggies wound up climbing back into contention in the second half and reduced Utah’s lead to 58-54 with 11:42 left to play.
“We ran into a hard time trying to protect it. I thought, as is often the case, it’s hard when you have that 20-point lead,” Krystkowiak said. “We got sloppy with the ball.”
Krystkowiak said that defense was the key and thought the Utes did a nice job. He credited the game plan that limited USU’s Sam Merrill to just six points and Koby McEwen to none.
“It was a good win. It’s an important win for us,” Krystkowiak said. “This was quite a deal to have an in-state game like that.”
The 224th meeting between Utah and USU was played at a neutral site for the first time. Bibbins and Rawson each scored 16 points for the Utes (7-2). DeAngelo Isby had a game-high 24 for the Aggies (5-6).
“Playing an in-state rivalry, it’s fun,” Bibbins said.
David Collette, who transferred to Utah after beginning his collegiate career at Utah State, finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots.
“It was just another game, just another one,” said the senior, who has downplayed the reunion with his former team.
“Seeing them today was great,” Collette continued. “It was good to see them and I wish them luck on the rest of the season.”
After a subpar showing in Tuesday’s 81-69 loss at Butler, Collette came out determined to be more effective early.
“We came out with more fire than them, for sure. I think a lot of that could have been me,” Collette said. “I was just trying to get my guys fired up because I feel like the last few games I’ve kind of been sitting back and not doing my part as a leader.”
Collette said that he wanted to step out of his comfort zone.
“I think we were just ready to hit them from the beginning this time,“ he said.
Utah racked up six blocks and five steals in the first game between the in-state foes in more than seven years. Additional contributions included 10 points by Parker Van Dyke and seven assists from Bibbins.
Utah returns to action Saturday at BYU (9 p.m., ESPN2), while Utah State is home that night against Life Pacific.
The Utes got a firsthand look at the Cougars, who played Weber State in the second game of the one-day gathering at the home of the NBA’s Utah Jazz.
“We’re going to stick around and watch. You don’t get an opportunity to live-scout very often in college," Krystkowiak said. "But with this event, they can sit and watch us play, we get to do the same thing — and, you know, try to be prepared as best we can (for) a week from tonight.”