Last year, Utah would've had to sweat this one out to the final minutes.
Last year, the Utes wouldn't have been able to separate from Fresno State, or hit the Bulldogs with a debilitating second half run, or win a game like this on pure athleticism.
But last year, Utah didn't have two difference makers like Delon Wright and Jordan Loveridge, as one was still in junior college and one was still a freshman feeling his way through college basketball. This as much as anything explains a 90-77 win over FSU before 8.189 at the Huntsman Center on Saturday afternoon, in a high-scoring affair.
"I'd be lying if I didn't say it felt good," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "When you have guys who can go get you points, or make plays and break guys down and make plays for others. It makes me look like a better coach."
In a game that was close for 28 minutes, those two proved to be too much for the Bulldogs. Loveridge a sophomore forward scored all 13 of his points after halftime and added 11 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season. Wright the junior point guard dominated throughout. He set career-highs with 23 points and 12 assists. He added six rebounds and two steals. In the four minute stretch that broke the game open, he scored 11 consecutive points. He spoon-fed big men Renan Lenz and Jeremy Olsen so thoroughly that both scored in double figures.
It serves as the biggest difference for the Utes of this season and last. Wright and Loveridge are guys who can win games with their talents. On Saturday, they were the two best players on the floor.
"Those four minutes were just kind of instinct for me," Wright said. "Coach called a pick and roll and it worked, so we did it the next possession. It kept working, so we kept doing it. The middle was open, so we just kind of took it."
Utah improves to 7-1 on the season heading into a big week that culminates with a visit next Saturday from BYU. For extended periods, it looked as if the Utes were going to have trouble beating the Bulldogs. They trailed by as much as 39-32 in the first half, as Fresno State rode Marvelle Harris' hot hand. He scored the first 10 points for the Bulldogs, and had 16 of his 22 in the first half.
Beyond Harris, Utah had trouble with FSU's athleticism and ability to finish at the rim. But the Utes defense tightened up in the second half, and Utah put six players in double figures. Lenz dropped in 15, Brandon Taylor had 12 and a career-high six assists, and Dakarai Tucker came off the bench for 10 points.
"The coaches are doing a great job of putting us in position to use our athleticism," Lenz said. "We've been getting out and running in transition and it's helped us a lot. Fresno is a good team, so this is a very good win for us."
O Utah improves to 7-1 on the season.
• Delon Wright scores 11 straight points in a crucial second-half stretch.
• Utah scores 50 points in the final 20 minutes.
Utah 90, Fresno State 77
FRESNO ST. (6-4)
Guerrero 6-11 2-2 16, Davis 3-3 0-0 7, Watson 7-9 3-4 20, Harris 8-15 5-6 22, Huddleston 1-7 0-2 3, Owootoah 0-1 2-2 2, Edo 2-7 3-4 7, Salazar 0-0 0-0 0, Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Jackson 0-0 0-0 0.
Totals 27-53 15-20 77.
Onwas 0-1 0-0 0, Lenz 6-7 3-3 15, Taylor 4-9 2-2 12, Loveridge 4-12 4-6 13, Wright 9-12 4-5 23, Van Brocklin 0-0 0-0 0, Van Dyke 1-2 0-0 3, Fields 0-1 0-0 0, Tucker 4-5 0-0 10, Ogbe 1-2 0-0 2, Ricketts 0-0 0-0 0, Olsen 5-6 2-3 12
Totals 34-57 15-19 90
HalftimeUtah 40-39. 3-Point GoalsFresno St. 8-18 (Watson 3-4, Guerrero 2-5, Davis 1-1, Huddleston 1-3, Harris 1-4, Owootoah 0-1), Utah 7-17 (Tucker 2-3, Taylor 2-6, Van Dyke 1-1, Wright 1-2, Loveridge 1-3, Onwas 0-1, Fields 0-1). Fouled OutDavis, Harris, Watson. ReboundsFresno St. 26 (Davis 6), Utah 27 (Loveridge 11). AssistsFresno St. 12 (Guerrero 6), Utah 21 (Wright 12). Total FoulsFresno St. 20, Utah 13. A8,189.