SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Runnin’ Utes scored a season-high 95 points on the way to a 24-point win over the LSU Tigers in second-round action of the NIT Monday evening at the Huntsman Center.
The Utes improved to 21-11 overall with the 95-71 victory, while LSU ended its 2017-18 season with an overall record of 18-15. Utah advances to the quarterfinals of the NIT and will either travel to face No. 1-seeded St. Mary’s or host No. 5-seeded Washington this Wednesday, March 21.
“This is my first time playing this far in the NIT, but getting that first win, as ugly as it might have been, and then having four days to kind of regroup and get charged up again and you realize there’s not that many teams playing,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “You have 16 in the NCAA tournament and we’ll have eight here shortly in the NIT, so there’s something to be said for that. I think you kind of regather your pride a little bit.”
Utah out-shot the Tigers .579 to .441 from the field overall, while knocking down .519 percent of its shots from three-point range. Utah went 14-of-27 from beyond the arc and then limited the Tigers to just an 8-of-30 (.267) effort on the evening. It marked the third time this season – first time since Jan. 25 – that Utah has tallied at least 14 three-pointers in a game.
Utah opened the game with a 7-2 run and then later used a 12-2 run to push its lead to 19-7. Utah would end up outscoring the Tigers 30-11 through the first 10 minutes of play and take the 19-point lead into the second quarter. The Utes shot a blistering .706 from the field, going 12-of-17 overall and 4-of-7 from three-point range in the first quarter.
Both teams shot .500 from the field in the second quarter, and despite LSU outscoring the Utes 19-17, Utah took a 47-30 lead into the locker room. Utah outscored the Tigers 15-7 over the first seven-plus minutes of the period, but LSU bounced back and closed out the frame on a 12-2 run to cut what was once a 27-point deficit to just 17 points.
The Utes came out of the break and proceeded to open the third quarter with a 13-6 run and push its lead to 24 points, up 60-36. Both teams would trade points throughout the majority of the quarter, but Utah managed to maintain its 20-plus-point advantage, up 72-51 at the end of the period.
Utah ended the evening shooting at least 50 percent from the field in all four quarters, which included a .533 effort in the final period that saw Utah outscore the Tigers 23-20. LSU had a chance to cut within the deficit early in the period, but in three consecutive trips to the foul line, the Tigers managed to go just 3-of-6 from the charity stripe. Utah would lead by as many as 30 points late in the game, but a couple of three-pointers from the Tigers got the game back under 25 points.
The Utes will head to the NIT quarterfinals for the first time since 1992. Utah defeated Rhode Island in the quarterfinals that season to advance to New York City’s Madison Square Garden and the NIT Final Four.
• Utah moved to 4-1 all-time against LSU, which includes a 3-0 record against the Tigers in Salt Lake City. It was the first-ever postseason meeting between the teams.
• Utah won two straight NIT games for the first time since 1992 and the Utes moved to 4-2 all-time when playing an NIT contest inside the Huntsman Center.
• With tonight’s victory, Utah picked up all-time win No. 1,801. Utah now has an all-time record of 1,801-991.
• Sedrick Barefield led the Utes in scoring, pouring in 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting. He was one of five starters in double-figures for the Utes as David Collette finished with 12 points, Tyler Rawson added 12 points, Gabe Bealer totaled 13 points and Justin Bibbins scored 16 points on the evening.
• Bibbins came into the game with 85 made three-pointers on the season. He tallied four three-pointers tonight and is now tied for No. 3 all-time with 89 three-pointers made in a single season. He is one behind Jordan Loveridge’s total of 90 three-pointers (2015-16).
• Utah finished the game knocking down 14 three-pointers as a team. It is the 14th game this season that the Utes have managed to sink at least 10 three-pointers in a game.
• Utah extended its single-season school record to 295 three-pointers made on the season. The 2015-16 squad held the previous school mark with 273 three-pointers in a season.
• This marked the ninth game this season that Utah has led wire-to-wire and not trailed at any point in the game. It is the first wire-to-wire win since downing Stanford 75-60 back on Feb. 8.
• Utah’s 95 points is the third-most points scored in a NIT game.
• Utah moved to 3-0 against SEC teams this season. The Utes are now 18-19 all-time against SEC foes.
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