LAS VEGAS — Justin Bibbins scored a game-high 23 points as Utah defeated Mississippi 83-74 late Monday night in the MGM Resorts Main Event tournament at T-Mobile Arena.
The 5-foot-8 graduate transfer from Long Beach State stood tall. He made 7 of 11 shots from the field, including 5 of 8 from 3-point range, as the Utes improved to 4-0 on the season.
“It just happened for me. I knew one of these games was going to be a breakout game for me,” Bibbins said. “The coaches just told me ‘always be ready, be ready for the moment’ and tonight it was.”
David Collette and Donnie Tillman added 13 points apiece, while Sedrick Barefield finished with 12. Tyler Rawson contributed nine points and 10 rebounds.
“It was great for us. It was our first time being on the road and having a neutral court,” Collette said. “It’s a little different when you don’t have your fan base behind you and it’s a little quieter out there. At those times you’ve got to bring your own energy and it was a good test for us to see, you know, what we had away from home.”
The Utes will face UNLV (4-0) in the tournament’s “Heavyweight Division” championship on Wednesday (10:30 p.m. MT, ESPN2). Brandon McCoy scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as the Rebels advanced with a 95-68 victory over Rice earlier in the evening.
Utah got off to a sluggish start in its semifinal game. The Utes missed their first five shots from the field and turned the ball over nine times in the opening half. Even so, they led 40-37 at the break.
The Utes opened the game with a 9-2 run. Ole Miss eventually climbed back into contention, however, and took a 19-18 edge on a basket by Breein Tyree with 9:31 left in the half.
Three lead changes followed. Parker Van Dyke came off the bench to score eight points, including a 3-pointer that put the Utes back on top 34-32 with 3:42 to go. They never trailed again.
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, though, wasn’t pleased with a lot of things — 50/50 balls, rebounding and mindless turnovers, to name a few.
“We had a little chitchat at halftime and I think our guys came out in the second half,” he said. “First half we gave up 15 points off of turnovers or crappy shots. In the second half, after we talked about it, that only happened with two points.”
Utah pulled away after Ole Miss had cut the gap to 42-41. Collette scored the first four points in a 9-0 spurt that proved to be pivotal. Bibbins later added a 3-pointer to cap what grew to be a 12-2 run.Comment on this story
The Utes, though, weren’t completely out of the woods with a 54-43 lead. The Rebels proved to be pesky and wound up cutting the deficit to 71-69 with 4:20 remaining.
Utah responded with five straight points to regain some breathing room down the stretch. A 3-point shot by Bibbins and a basket from Rawson helped give Utah a 76-69 lead entering the final three minutes.
Ole Miss drew no closer than three points after that.
“It was a nice test for us on a neutral court,” Krystkowiak said. “This is the first time either one of us has been away and I think our guys mustered up enough energy and were able to finish the job.”