SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) – Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak pushed his team to play tougher after a first half in which they squandered much of a 12-point lead and couldn’t keep Texas Tech off the boards.
The second half was more what the fifth-year coach expects from the No. 16 Utes.
Lorenzo Bonam scored a season-high 20 points and Utah held off Texas Tech 73-63 on Thursday night in the opening round of the Puerto Rico Tipoff.
Jordan Loveridge added 18 points for the Utes (3-0), who dominated the boards and scored 16 second-chance points after halftime to stay in control – especially as the Red Raiders (1-1) kept trying to push their way back into the game.
”I actually challenged the guys (at halftime),” Krystkowiak said. ”I think there’s a perception out there maybe that the Big 12 is a real physical league and maybe the Pac-12’s not and it looked like that in the first half.
”We ended up on our backs a lot of times laying on the ground pointing fingers at each other telling each other to block out. … We had to play more physical to have a chance to win that game.”
After Texas Tech outrebounded Utah 25-18 in the first half, the Utes sure reversed those struggles after the break. They more than doubled up the Red Raiders after halftime at 27-13, including 10-5 on the offensive glass.
”Our intensity just picked up and we got down into it defensively,” Utah senior Brandon Taylor said. ”We tried to slow down a little bit on offense and really just capitalize and hold onto the basketball as much as we could. We dialed in defensively and offensively.”
Devaugntah Williams scored 13 points to lead the Red Raiders, who got within 42-40 before Bonam responded with six straight points to give Utah some breathing room.
Utah pushed that lead back out to 13, then got a key 3-pointer from Loveridge near the 2-minute mark after Texas Tech had fought back to make it a two-possession game again.
Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith didn’t have to look far for reasons why his Red Raiders couldn’t quite dig out from the early hole. Aside from rebounding, Texas Tech made 3 of 19 3-pointers for the game and made 6 of 14 free throws in the final 20 minutes.
”They dominated the boards … and that gave them some second opportunities and third opportunities,” Smith said. ”Another thing is our free-throw shooting. We have to put more pressure on them, by making shots and we struggled to make our free throws.”
Utah: Jakob Poeltl finished with 15 points and nine rebounds. … Taylor scored 11 points. … Utah made 21 of 27 free throws, including 13 of 16 after halftime.
Utah is opening with five games in 10 nights, three coming in four days here in San Juan after the longest trip of the Tipoff teams at roughly 3,100 miles and a couple of time zones east.
Utah advanced to play Miami in Friday’s second round.
Stats: Utah 73, Texas Tech 63
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