SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Justin Bibbins scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak was ejected in the first half and the Utes overcame an 11-point deficit to beat UC Davis 69-59 on Wednesday night in the first round of the NIT.
Tyler Rawson and Donnie Tillman scored 11 points apiece for Utah. The Utes (20-11) will play LSU (18-14) in the second round.
UC Davis (22-11) led by 11 points and Colin Russell’s layup gave the Aggies a 39-29 lead early in the second half. Bibbins hit two free throws to cap a 10-3 run that pulled Utah within one at the end of the third quarter and the Utes opened the fourth with an 8-0 spurt that made it 56-48 when Bibbins hit a 3 with 5:53 to play. Garrison Goode’s layup about a minute later trimmed UCD’s deficit to six, but it would get no closer.
The Aggies made just 1 of 11 from the field, and committed three turnovers, from halfway through the third to the middle of the fourth.
A.J. John had 11 points, while Michael Onyebalu, Siler Schneider and TJ Shorts II scored 10 apiece, for UCD. Shorts added six rebounds and five assists, giving him 146 helpers this season — two shy of the program’s D-1 single-season record.
The No. 2 seeded Utes (20-11) were down four points at halftime, but came out of the break and outscored the No. 7-seeded Aggies (22-11) by 26 points over the final two quarters on the way to the 10-point victory.
UC Davis opened the game with a 3-pointer and later went on a 6-0 run to take an early 9-2 lead. Utah closed out the remainder of the first quarter outscoring the Aggies, 9-8, but UCD took a 17-11 lead into the second quarter.
Utah opened the second quarter on a 6-2 run to cut the deficit to two points, but UCD’s 6-0 run pushed the lead back to nine points. Gabe Bealer and Sedrick Barefield got the Utes back into the game with three-pointers – two from Bealer and one from Barefield – but the Utes trailed 33-29 at the half.
The Aggies came out of the break scoring the first six points of the third quarter and pushed their lead to 10 points, up 39-29, but the Utes would go on to outscore UCD 18-9 the rest of the way and trailed by just one point heading into the fourth quarter.
Tillman opened the fourth quarter with a bucket to give the Utes their first lead of the game, up 49-48 with 9:48 left to play in the contest and the home squad never looked back. Utah would go on to outscore the Aggies 22-11 in the final quarter of play.
Utah advances to the second round of the NIT and will host the No. 3-seeded LSU Tigers (18-14) next Monday, March 19, at the Huntsman Center, with a tip-off set for 7 p.m. MT. The contest will be televised on ESPNU.
• Utah moved to 12-12 all-time in NIT games, while picking up its first NIT victory since 1992.
• The Utes are now 3-0 all-time against UC Davis, with all three victories coming in Salt Lake City. It was the first postseason meeting between the two teams.
• With tonight’s victory, Utah picked up all-time win No. 1,800. Utah now has an all-time record of 1,800-991.
• Bibbins led the Utes in scoring for a third straight game and for the 13th time this season. It also marked his third straight 20-point game and eighth overall on the year.
• Tyler Rawson and Donnie Tillman both scored 11 points on the night. Rawson led the team with nine rebounds and for Tillman, this was his second double-digit scoring effort in the past three games. He has scored 10+ points in 11 games this season.
• Utah shot just 21.4 percent from the field in the first quarter, but followed with shooting percentages of 62.5 percent, 53.8 percent and 50.0 percent in the final three quarters, respectively. Utah finished shooting 44.7 percent, while limiting the Aggies to just a 39.7 percent effort.
• The Utes finished the game with 7-of-28 (.250) from a newly expanded three-point line. The NIT is experimenting with a deeper three-point line, extended by approximately 1 foot 8 inches to the same distance used by FIBA for international competition (22 feet 1.75 inches).
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