Utah’s height turns back Warriors, 79-66

Senior shooting guard and co-captain Noel Coleman again led Hawai’i with a team-high 14 points, to go with four assists and two steals as Utah handed the Warriors their first loss of the season. (File photo courtesy Brandon Flores Photography)

Beating Utah in Salt Lake City turned out to be a tall order, indeed, as the super-sized Utes turned back Hawai’i, 79-66, in non-conference men’s basketball action Thursday evening.

A neutral arena crowd of 4,686 at the Delta Center and Pac-12 Network TV audience watched 7-foot center Branden Carlson score a game-high 17 points and grab six rebounds and 6-3 guard Hunter Erickson add 15 points, two rebounds and two assists off the bench as Utah improved to 5-2. Noel Coleman scored a team-high 14 points with four assists and two steals and Juan Munoz added 12 points and three assists off the bench for the Warriors, who fell to 5-1 after their best start since 2010.

The Utes, whose average starter is 6-7 and are one of the tallest teams in the country, used a 15-3 run to jump out to an 18-6 lead in the first six minutes. UH later staged a 14-3 rally to actually take the lead at 27-26 on Harry Rhouhliadeff’s layup with 8:16 remaining in the first half.

But that lead held for only 75 seconds as Keba Keita answered with a putback to give Utah the lead for good and Rollie Worster sank two free throws one second before halftime to put the Utes ahead 39-34 at the break.

Utah’s height advantage bore out on the halftime stat sheet, as the Utes out-rebounded the Warriors, 21-11, and outscored them in the paint, 20-10. Utah also outscored Hawai’i on second-chance points, 14-4.

The disparity began to show on the scoreboard in the second half, as the Utes used an early 12-2 run to open up the lead to 54-39 on Worster’s layup with 13:46 left. The Warriors later managed a 9-2 surge to close it to 66-57 on Justin McKoy’s free throw with 6:51 remaining, but Utah eventually responded with an 11-4 run capped by Keita’s layup that made it 79-63 with a minute left to effectively seal the victory.

The Utes shot 52.6 percent (30 of 57) from the field, including 35.7 percent (5 of 14) from 3-point range, and they also sank 14 of 17 free throws (82.4 percent). UH, meanwhile, shot only 42.1 percent (24 of 57) from the field, and made only nine of 15 free throws (60 percent).

Utah outscored the Warriors in the paint, 44-24.

Hawai’i will return home on Friday and be back in action at 5 p.m. Sunday versus Central Arkansas in SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center.

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