We knew they were going to play hard. I know the M.O. for UC Davis since I played them for three years. —Utah guard Justin Bibbins
SALT LAKE CITY — Chalk it up as March madness.
Larry Krystkowiak’s ejection in Utah’s 69-59 win over UC Davis in the NIT may have stolen the show Wednesday. Krystkowiak’s lengthy tirade against the officials and the throwing of a stool in the locker room tunnel may have fired up the Utes. They wound up coming back to prevail, overcoming an 11-point deficit that the Aggies created shortly after Krystkowiak’s ouster.
“I think he didn't go into that wanting to get ejected, but he was going to make a strong point he didn't like some of the things that were happening,” said associate head coach Tommy Connor, who took charge after two technical fouls were called for Krystkowiak’s behavior with 5:07 remaining in the second quarter. “Our guys rallied together, we have good senior leadership.”
Guard Justin Bibbins led the winning effort with 21 points. The graduate transfer from Long Beach State was quite familiar with UC Davis from his days in the Big West Conference.
“We knew they were going to play hard,” Bibbins said. “I know the M.O. for UC Davis since I played them for three years.”
The Aggies led the game for three quarters. The Utes then seized control and outscored them 22-11 in the fourth.
“I thought we executed really well. We got the right guys the ball,” Connor said. “Justin, like he's done all year, bailed us out with some timely threes. Tyler (Rawson) made some nice plays and Donnie (Tillman) gave us a lift offensively, and the other guys were solid all around.”
Rawson and Tillman finished with 11 points apiece as Utah advanced to the second round of the NIT. The Utes (20-11) host LSU (18-14) Monday (7 p.m., ESPNU).
“I feel like we’ve got our groove a little bit going in and it’s going to be exciting,” Bibbins said.
After Wednesday’s win over UC Davis, Connor noted that he didn’t immediately know a lot about LSU — other than the Tigers have about three players that the Utes recruited.
Connor said they know them a little bit and there’s time to prep because the game won't be played until Monday.
“That will be fun to have a big-time SEC school come in and play us in the NIT,” he continued. “Hopefully we get a great crowd.”
EXTRA STUFF: Wednesday's attendance was 3,452 ... Rawson’s game-high nine rebounds paced Utah to a 35-29 advantage on the boards ... LSU advanced to the second round with an 84-76 win over Louisiana.