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October 25, 2012On the first practice of the 2012-2013 season, Utah head basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak said his team could score.
The confidence seemed perhaps a bit too premature, and two weeks of practices have largely been up and down.
When the lights came on Wednesday night for the annual 'Night with the Runnin' Utes' however, the Utes delivered offensively.
"Offensively, I was pretty pleased with it, where I think we really need to dig in and focus on is where we're breaking down, and that's on the defensive side of the ball," summarized Krystkowiak after his team's public scrimmage.
Seven Utes scored in double figures in what was supposed to be a single 20 minute scrimmage, which evolved into an entire evening, thanks to three overtime sessions in which the Utes could not find a way to break their seemingly perennial deadlock.
From a coaching standpoint, the session couldn't have gone any better, as in these situations, when one team excels, that means potential issues on the other end.
"My goal at the end of the day is to be able to say good offense, and better defense, or good defense and just better offense," explained Krystkowiak. "We're just at that point of the season where you're watching film, and you see something good on offense and then something bad on defense."
In the end, the White team won out on the strength of forward Renan Lenz' strong finish in the final two minute overtime session of the night.
"I was happy for [Lenz] tonight, because he's struggled a little bit internally, in our practices, with knowing where his shots are coming from," revealed Krystkowiak.
While the evening provided a first glance of the new Runnin' Utes squad, as well as some solid entertainment for a small, but eager basketball-hungry crowd, the Utes kept a grounded perspective about the positives that came out of the session.
"It's hard to say what things we did well, because once we watch the film, I know there are going to be breakdowns and things to fix," said point guard Glen Dean.
Reiterating the confidence in their ability to score, the Utes talked about playing better defense as their number one priority.
"Scoring brings the fans, but it doesn't win games," stated freshman Justin Seymour, who chipped in 16 points. "I think we need to concentrate on playing defense, and I feel that starts with me. I need to step up my game on the defensive side of the ball."
True freshman Jordan Loveridge, junior forward Renan Lenz and senior Cedric Martin each dropped 17 points to lead the scoring attack, while Loveridge pulled down five rebounds.
Point guard Glen Dean showed a good command of the Ute offense, and ran the team well, providing a balance of distributing the ball, and scoring. Dean added 15 points and dished out six assists Wednesday night. Sophomore 7-foot center Dallin Bachynski, who also grabbed nine rebounds, just one shy of a double-double. Bachynski also blocked three shots.
Two other Utes contributed significant points, as center Jason Washburn came on late to become the seventh Ute to score in double figures on the night, and freshman guard/win Justin Seymour scored 16, mostly from the outside with a smooth stroke that was on display earlier in the session.
Freshman guard Brandon Taylor came on late in the scrimmage, scoring five points and hustling after five rebounds for the black squad, while senior guard scored four points and dished out six assists.
Overall the parity was apparent, and the Utes don't appear to rely on any one player to provide numbers in any given statistical category, making them potentially very difficult to game plan for.
The Utes relished the competition Wednesday night, citing the difficulty in going up against each an opponent that already knows all your plays. In the long session, the Utes also faded in the end, showing fatigue.
"I'm tired. That was a really long session, and with the short benches we have it was a challenge," cited center Jason Washburn. "It was a lot of fun and really competitive. I'm just really excited to see what we can do when we have all 14 of us on the bench, available."
The Utes were also happy to change things up with the opportunity to play in front of a crowd, but are eager to play a different team.
Their opportunity will come on Friday, November 2 as the Utes play host to Simon Fraser in an exhibition game slated to start at 7 P.M. MDT at the Jon M. Huntsman Center.