SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak acknowledged his team’s performance wasn’t “sexy” on Saturday, but the Utes will take a win any way they can get it.
The Utes simply had more skill and size than the visiting Rainbow Warriors and cruised to the victory despite some ugly play on both sides.
“It wasn’t stellar defense on either team’s part and it was missing a bunch of open shots,” Krystkowiak said. “Our discussion at halftime was strictly defense, playing harder. … There were a lot of open looks that didn’t go in. From an offensive point of view, it’s not like you need to recreate the wheel. … As I told the team, get in and get a bunch of reps up. … Some guys have to find some confidence.
“We don’t have one guy we can rely on, so it’s going to have to be a collective effort on our part. … It’s good to get the win, but it certainly wasn’t real sexy.”
Tillman shot 5 for 9 from the field and added eight rebounds off the bench. Dave Collette finished with 16 points for Utah (6-1) while Gabe Bealer scored 14 and knocked down four 3-pointers.
Utah led 37-30 at halftime after a sluggish start offensively for both teams. Both squads missed their first five shots and went long stretches without scoring a basket.
The Utes finally got going off seven straight points from Tillman and a 21-8 stretch gave Utah a 13-point lead. Hawaii closed the half strong with a 14-8 run of their own, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Drew Buggs.
“I was really picking my spots and angles,” Tillman said. “Coach has been watching a little extra film with me about cutting and when to cut, things of that nature. … I was pretty sluggish at first. I had to find something to get me going. I got a little eurostep foul and got to the line and after that was ready to go.”
A 20-6 second-half stretch put the Utes up 59-40 and buried Hawaii. Utah won the rebounding battle 46-32.
Buggs led the Rainbow Warriors (4-2) with 14 points and Mike Thomas added 12.
“That was not a good performance,” Hawaii coach Eran Ganot said. “I thought we did a good job to keep us in the game defensively, but again, there is an occurring thing with our offensive distortion, our inability to make shots around the rim, and we probably had six to ten layups that we either faded or missed.
“You give yourselves a chance when you hold that team to 44 percent from the field … but you have to put offensive pressure on them.”
Hawaii: Utah is the first Power 5 team the Rainbow Warriors have played and, though they never led, hung around into the second half. Hawaii didn’t have the size to match up and a dismal 36.5 shooting percentage was a season low. A December 22 meeting with Miami in the Diamond Head Classic is the only other Power 5 team on the schedule. USC is also in the field.
Utah: The Utes still haven’t been truly tested. The 85-58 loss to UNLV was a bit of an anomaly and the nonconference schedule has been fairly weak. Everyone should learn a lot more about this Utah team next week at Butler.
RAINBOW, NOT ROAD WARRIORS
Hawaii played its first road game of the season on Saturday and the Utah trip is the lone nonconference road game on the schedule.
Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell watched the game from the stands the day after dropping a franchise rookie record 41 points on Friday night. Students chanted his name and someone shouted “Rookie of the year!” Mitchell was gifted a holiday sweatshirt from the student section.
Redshirt freshman Chris Seeley did not play Saturday and is out after having gall bladder surgery. Krystkowiak expects him to miss a week or two. He began the day ranked No. 3 on the team with 5.7 rebounds per game.
Hawaii: Hosts Prairie View A&M on Wednesday.
Utah: Travels to face Butler on Tuesday.
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