Men's Basketball Battles Late, Falls to Sam Houston in FMTO Opener
SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah men's basketball battled a tough Sam Houston team Thursday night inside the Jon M. Huntsman Center and was knocking on the door several times but couldn't get over the hump in its 65-55 loss to the Bearkats in the campus game of the Ft. Myers Tip-off Tournament.
Utah took a 3-2 lead in the opening minutes before Sam Houston took a 4-2 lead and never looked back. The Runnin' Utes went down 21-8 after a dry spell on offense that allowed the Bearkats go on a 12-3 run deep into the first half.
Out of the 5:15 timeout by SHSU, Utah's line up of Rollie Worster, Luka Tarlac, Wilguens Jr. Exacte, Mike Saunders Jr. and Branden Carlson finally found some rhythm on the offensive end and gave Utah an 8-3 run to get within 23-16 at the final media timeout of the half (2:57).
A 3-pointer from Gabe Madsen followed by a long jumper from Marco Anthony closed the gap (27-23) against the Bearkats heading into the locker room. The bright spots for Utah (3-1) heading into the break was that it assisted on 8-of-10 made shots and despite turning the ball over 11 times to SHSU's six, the points off turnover margin was in favor of Utah 5-4.
The second stanza saw a lot of back-and-forth action with both teams exchanging short runs before a lay-in from Lazar Stefanovic brought Utah within 41-40 of Sam Houston and 10:55 remaining. However, SHSU's Qua Grant reeled off six-straight points to put the Bearkats back on top 47-40 with 8:17 remaining. Grant ended the night with a game-high 22 points.
Utah responded with a 9-4 run capped off by a pair of free-throws from Worster to make it a one possession game (51-49) with 5:16 left to go but the stingy defense from Sam Houston (4-0) allowed it to finish off the game on a 14-6 spur and hand Utah its first loss of the season.
Worster led Utah with 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting with seven boards and five assists while Lazar Stefanovic chipped in with 12 points. Carlson ended his night with nine points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks on just 3-of-7 shooting while Anthony added eight points off the bench on 4-of-6 shooting with four boards in his season debut.
BY THE NUMBERS
Marco Anthony made his season debut with 12:55 remaining in the first half and scored shortly thereafter at the 11:59 mark … Branden Carlson tied his career-high with four assists … the first time Utah has given up 10 steals to an opponent since giving up 10 to Washington State on Jan. 26, 2022 … Utah was outrebounded for the first time this season 41-31 … second-straight game Utah has given up 60-plus field goal attempts to an opposing team.
Utah now turns its attention to the main Ft. Myers Tip-Off bracket where it'll open up against Georgia Tech – who is currently 3-0 after defeating Northern Illinois Thursday night 68-50 – on Monday, Nov. 21. Brandon Gaudin and Bill Raftery will have the call in the first-ever meeting between the Runnin' Utes and Yellow Jackets on FS1 at 4 p.m. (MT). Depending on Monday's results, Utah will either face Marquette or Mississippi State on Wednesday, Nov. 23. The Utes will either play at 6 p.m. (MT) in a win situation and 4 p.m. (MT) if the result doesn't go their way on Monday.
For the latest news and information on the Runnin' Utes men's basketball program, fans can stay connected online at www.UtahUtes.com and on social media by following @UtahMBB on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.