SALT LAKE CITY — In the NIT as a No. 2 seed in the 32-team field, the Utah Utes finished strong to beat No. 7 seed UC Davis 69-59 in the first round Wednesday night at the Huntsman Center after head coach Larry Krystkowiak was ejected in the second quarter.
Turning point: Having trailed the whole game, the Utes cut the deficit to one at the end of the third quarter. They then opened the fourth on an extended 9-0 run, not allowing the Aggies to score for the first 4:38 of the frame, and controlled things from there.
The hero: Justin Bibbins led Utah with 21 points, six rebounds, two assists and a steal.
• In all, the late UC Davis drought lasted 6:08 from the third to fourth quarter.
• The Utes shot 15 more free throws (made 12 more), won the rebounding battle 35-29 and had 16 assists compared to just nine for the Aggies.
• UC Davis’ leading scorer, TJ Shorts II, was plagued by foul trouble and finished with just 10 points on 2-of-6 shooting.
Utah almanac: 20-11, Won 1
Next up: The Utes will face 3 seed LSU in the second round of the NIT on Monday, March 19 at the Huntsman Center. Tip time is scheduled for 7 p.m. MT.