It was Utah's best and most complete performance of the young basketball season.
In a sport where things are often overanalyzed, the above sentence served as the prevailing opinion on Friday night, following the Utes' 67-51 win over Central Michigan in the second game of Utah's Thanksgiving Tournament.
It's hard to argue the point.
Sacramento State provided a manual of how to lose a lead in the final eight minutes. Utah survived Idaho State on Wednesday as much as it defeated the Bengals. Against the Chippewas, however, the Utes were the better team from start to finish.
"I thought it all started on the defensive end," senior guard Jarred DuBois said. "We kind of made it snowball from there. We got stops, and we got comfortable on the offensive end. I definitely think it was our best game of the season."
In front of 7,599 at the Huntsman Center, Utah led pretty much the whole game, turning a tie game early into an 18-8 lead with a 10-0 run. The simple story is that the Utes built the lead from there, never trailed, and were never seriously threatened.
Going deeper, however, Utah has clearly made a few improvements in the span of a week. The Utes never let Central Michigan back into the game with bad shots and wasted possessions like they did against Sacramento State. They looked much more fluid offensively and defensively than they did against Idaho State.
DuBois, a transfer from Loyola Marymount, played the best game of his young Utah career, scoring 20 points, handing out five assists and grabbing five rebounds. He cut the Chippewas up off the dribble, and calmly sank 3-pointers when the defense played off in fear of his penetration.
"For all that he did, I think his best contribution was on the defensive end," Ute head coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "I think with him being such an important player at his previous school that he thought he would automatically step in and have the same role. But you have to earn that, and with us, we needed him to play better defensively. He did that today."
As a duo, DuBois and junior point guard Glen Dean were too much for the Chippewas. If DuBois wasn't scoring, it was Dean, who dropped in 13. Freshman Jordan Loveridge had eight points and nine rebounds, and Dallin Bachynski combined with Jason Washburn to score 15 points.
The Utes (3-1) dominated nearly every statistical category. They used their size to score buckets in the paint. They got out on the fast break when they forced turnovers. Defensively, Utah held CMU guard Kyle Randall to four points on 1-of-11 shooting. Austin Keel wasn't much better for his team, going 2-of-11 and scoring just six points.
With two of Central Michigan's best players on ice, getting stops became easier as the game progressed.
Utah will face Wright State on Saturday on the last night of the tournament.
"I think everyone's energy level went up in the final eight minutes," DuBois said. "I think that's what we learned from the Sacramento State loss. We can't let up. If we want to get wins, we have to play 40 minutes every night."
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R Jarred DuBois scores a season-high 20 points.
• Central Michigan fails to score a point for 10 minutes in the first half. •
Utah 67,Central Mich. 51
CENT. MICHIGAN (2-2) • Randall 1-11 1-2 4, Fowler 2-4 2-5 6, Keel 2-11 0-0 6, Simons 3-6 0-0 8, Saylor 2-5 2-2 6, Richardson Jr. 3-5 3-4 10, Craddock 0-1 0-0 0, Wiest 1-2 0-0 3, Stewart 1-3 1-2 3, Hibbitts 1-5 0-0 3, Mbaigoto 1-4 0-0 2. Totals • 17-57 9-15 51.
UTAH (3-1) • Dean 5-7 1-2 13, DuBois 5-7 8-9 20, Loveridge 3-11 2-4 8, Bachynski 3-5 2-4 8, Martin 1-5 0-0 3, Seymour 2-5 0-0 4, Lenz 1-3 0-0 2, Taylor 0-0 0-0 0, Tucker 1-1 0-0 2, Olsen 0-0 0-0 0, Washburn 3-5 1-2 7. Totals 24-49 14-21 67.
Halftime • Utah 37-24.
3-Point Goals • Cent. Michigan 8-31 (Simons 2-5, Keel 2-10, Wiest 1-2, Richardson Jr. 1-2, Hibbitts 1-5, Randall 1-5, Stewart 0-1, Craddock 0-1), Utah 5-12 (DuBois 2-2, Dean 2-4, Martin 1-3, Seymour 0-3). Fouled Out • None. Rebounds • Cent. Michigan 32 (Randall 5), Utah 41 (Loveridge 9). Assists • Cent. Michigan 13 (Fowler, Randall 3), Utah 12 (DuBois 5). Total Fouls • Cent. Michigan 18, Utah 15.
A • 7,599.