Coming off a mixed showing at the MGM Grand Main Event, Utah returns home looking for answers as it entertains Eastern Washington on Friday night. The Utes were thoroughly outclassed in an 85-58 loss to UNLV in the tournament’s Heavyweight bracket championship game.
Utah found itself behind by double-digits at halftime against the Runnin’ Rebels, and completely fell apart in a second half in which it was outscored 42-25 by the Heavyweight champs. “Some of the little things you talk about in basketball, it would have been a lot different mindset had we come into the locker room without a double-digit (deficit),” head coach Larry Krystkowiak told reporters. “They made some great plays and their defense was extremely good all night long. We got our butts kicked.” Poor 3-point shooting was the Utes’ undoing, as they hit just two of their 20 attempts from beyond the arc. Eastern Washington ended its MGM Grand experience on a more positive note, cruising to an 83-62 triumph over Eastern Kentucky.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network
ABOUT EASTERN WASHINGTON (3-3): Ukrainian guard Bogdan Bliznyuk has been the extent of the Eagles’ offense so far this season; his 15.3 points-per-game average is more than seven points higher than the next-highest scorer on the team. Bliznyuk struggled mightily in Monday’s 68-50 loss to Georgia State - scoring just two points while turning the ball over eight times - but bounced back nicely against Eastern Kentucky, pouring in 13 points while adding five assists and four rebounds. Discipline has been a major issue for the Eagles; they average 22.4 fouls per game, ranking 310th in Division I.
ABOUT UTAH (4-1): The Utes have a great scoring balance to open the 2017-18 campaign, with five players averaging double figures in scoring. Senior forward Tyler Rawson has been the best all-around Utah player to date, averaging 11.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.6 blocks; he flirted with a triple-double in Tuesday’s victory over Ole Miss, racking up nine points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Utah is limiting opponents to 24.4-percent shooting from beyond the arc, the 16th-best defensive rate in Division I.
1. Bliznyuk is shooting 88.1 percent from the free-throw line.
2. Utah is averaging 14.3 turnovers per game, ranking outside the top 200 nationally.
3. The Utes are tied for 32nd in Division I in defensive rebounds per contest (31.0).
PREDICTION: Utah 76, Washington State 64