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Offensive balance, rebounding push No. 3 Utah past No. 14 Fresno State

Larry Krystkowiak

Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak directs his team against Fresno State in the first half of a first-round men’s college basketball game Thursday, March 17, 2016, in the NCAA Tournament in Denver. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)


Sophomore center Jakob Poeltl is the focal point of the offensive attack for Midwest No. 3 Utah, but the Runnin’ Utes are at their best when they receive contributions from multiple players. That was the case in their NCAA tournament opener Thursday night, as four players scored at least 16 points in Utah’s 80-69 win over No. 14 Fresno State in Denver.

Junior guard Lorenzo Bonam scored 17 points, making seven of his ten shots from the field, and three other Utah players scored 16 points apiece. Poeltl, who also grabbed 18 rebounds and dished out four assists, was one of those three with seniors Brandon Taylor and Jordan Loveridge being the others.

Utah shot 54 percent from the field and assisted on 16 of their 27 made field goals, and the offensive execution helped them end a run that saw Fresno State take a one point lead halfway through the second half.

Fresno State took a 48-47 lead with 10:33 remaining, with Utah playing with less aggression offensively and the Bulldogs successfully forcing the issue on both ends of the floor. Instead of allowing Fresno State to hang around Utah regained control, with a Bonam jumper 33 seconds later sparking a 19-2 run that removed any doubt in regards to the final outcome.

Larry Krystkowiak’s team was dominant on the glass as well, posting rebounding percentages of 56.5 percent on the offensive end and 84.6 percent defensively. From a rebounding standpoint the Runnin’ Utes will have a tougher time against either No. 6 Seton Hall or No. 11 Gonzaga Saturday, but in that regard this was a nice start to the tournament for Utah. But they’ll need to avoid the lull that opened the door for a Fresno State rally if they’re to advance to the Sweet 16.