Runnin' Utes Take Bulldogs Down to the Wire in Ft. Myers Tip-Off Title Game
FT. MYERS, Fla. – The Utah men's basketball team dropped a tight battle with Mississippi State Wednesday night in the championship game of the Ft. Myers Tip-Off, falling to the Bulldogs 52-49 inside Suncoast Credit Union Arena on the campus of Florida Southwestern State College.
As anticipated, the first half between the Utes and Bulldogs was a battle with Mississippi State leading most of the game. However, Utah (4-2) was able to weather its 11 turnovers to keep within 25-21 of MSU at the break thanks to a huge 3-pointer from Ben Carlson and pair of free throws from Gavin Baxter down the stretch.
— Fort Myers Tip-Off (@FTMyersTipOff) November 24, 2022
After Mississippi State opened the second frame with a three, the Runnin' Utes responded with an 11-0 run capped off by a pair of free throws from Marco Anthony out of the 15:35 media break. That lead was short-lived with the Bulldogs battling back to retake the 35-34 edge on a 3-pointer from Dashawn Davis. However, Lazar Stefanovic and Gabe Madsen teamed up to hit back-to-back shots from downtown to put the Runnin' Utes back on top 40-35 – which forced an MSU (6-0) timeout with 11:13 left to go.
Worster to the rack for the LEAD for Utah!
— Utah Basketball (@UtahMBB) November 24, 2022
Some back and forth action ensued with both teams having a hard time finding the bottom of the bucket until Rollie Worster made a move to the rack that gave the Utes a narrow 44-42 (5:09) advantage before Anthony hit 1-of-2 from the stripe.
After another 3-pointer from Davis tied things up (45-45), Tolu Smith put the Bulldogs back on top after grabbing an offensive board to set the Utes back 47-45 with 2:41 remaining. Utah went on to hit 2-of-4 from the free-throw at the end but a 3-pointer from Davis once again followed by a bucket from Smith gave Mississippi state just enough cushion despite Utah getting a good luck at the basket to tie things up.
Ben Carlson finished the night with 10 points and four rebounds on 4-of-6 shooting for Utah while Anthony chipped in with 10 boards and eight rebounds in his first start of the season. Worster closed the night with six points and nine rebounds for Utah.
Anthony was named to the all-tournament team after averaging 10.5 points and 6.0 rebounds. Smith was named the tournament MVP and joined by Davis for MSU while Ja'Von Franklin (Georgia Tech) and Kam Jones (Marquette) were also named to the all-tournament team.
BY THE NUMBERS
Utah is now 4-2 overall in MTE games under head coach Craig Smith with one tournament championship stemming from last year's Sunshine Slam Tournament crown … Utah won the battle of the glass 49-45 in the loss and won the battle in the paint 22-14 … Utes only committed 3 turnovers in the second half to its 11 in the first … Utah held an MSU team that was averaging 70.6 points to just 52 points on Wednesday.
The Utes will have a short turnaround as it welcomes in St. Thomas into the Jon M. Huntsman for the first meeting ever between the two programs on Saturday, Nov. 26, for a 6 p.m. tip-off on Pac-12 Networks with Jacob Tobey and Dan Belluomini on the call.
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.