SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah offered up a sneak preview of the fast pace and gritty defense it wants to spring on other Pac-12 teams this season.
The Utes pulled away for an 81-69 victory over Oregon State in the Pac-12 opener for both teams on Thursday night by getting out and getting transition baskets and making the Beavers work overtime to get clean looks at the basket.
It could be a winning formula for Utah (10-3), a team initially not expected to do much in the league this year while playing numerous freshmen. The Utes are doing their part to change that preseason narrative.
Sophomores Timmy Allen and Both Gach have taken lead roles in defying expectations. Allen led the way with 25 points and 10 rebounds. Gach added 17 points. Both players came up with big-time baskets.
“Last year, we were all new to it and we didn't know the mentality you had to have and the grit and toughness that comes with each game and the scouting and how everything is so important,” Allen said. “We obviously have a different role this year, so we got to shower that knowledge onto the young guys.”
The Utes also got a lift from Rylan Jones, who finished with 14 points and dished out five assists.
Utah overcame tough interior defense by the Beavers by successfully getting out in transition. The Utes scored 22 fastbreak points. Eighteen of those points came before halftime.
“Those are daggers when you have to expend so much energy to get back into it against a team that's playing as well as these guys are,” Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle said. “It really takes the air out of it.”
Tres Tinkle scored 19 points and collected six rebounds to lead the Beavers. Zach Riechle and Ethan Thompson chipped in 15 apiece. Oregon State scored 16 points off 11 Utah turnovers and blocked eight shots but could not overcome its own lengthy scoring droughts.
The Beavers (10-3) endured a seven-minute stretch during the first half when they missed seven straight shots and 10 of 11 overall. It opened the door for Utah to rally from an early 13-7 deficit and surge in front.
Jones and Allen combined for back-to-back baskets to ignite a 12-0 run that put the Utes ahead for the first time at 27-19. Hot perimeter shooting from Gach and Jones helped keep Utah in front as the first half wound down.
The Beavers cut the deficit to three points multiple times in the second half, the final time on a fastbreak layup from Antonie Vernon that brought Oregon State to within 54-51.
Utah used a 16-5 run to extend its lead to 70-55 with 5:31 left. Riley Battin sparked the run with a 3-point play and Gach added the biggest highlight with a dunk off a steal. Battin and Gach combined for four baskets in that decisive stretch.
The Utes did not let themselves getting bogged down with a slow pace for long stretches like they had in multiple nonconference games.
That was the first thing we worked on when we got back from Christmas was to get out and go,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “We had a number of guys that thought they were our point guards, that were jogging. Both, Timmy, and Rylan were all kind of waiting for it. We got a lot of that cleaned up.”
GETTING TO THE LINE
Allen went 13 of 15 from the line. He shot four fewer free-throw attempts than the entire Oregon State team. It ended up being both a season high in free-throw attempts and made free throws for him.
In the end, getting to the line played a big role in Allen leading Utah in scoring for the 13th consecutive game.
“Getting to the line is a big part of my game, so it's very important I'm locked in there,” Allen said. “Goal is over 80%, but we'll see what it is at the end of the season."
Oregon State's eight blocked shots marked the sixth time this season that the Beavers have blocked eight or more shots against an opponent. They came into Pac-12 play leading the league with 6.4 blocks per game.
Oregon State: The Beavers made it tough for Utah around the basket at times but struggled to defend in transition. That could be a big problem with games against other high-flying athletic Pac-12 teams still ahead.
Utah: Once again, the Utes look like a team capable of making unexpected noise in the Pac-12. Utah still struggles with turnovers and scoring droughts from time to time. But when the offense is clicking, few teams are able to contain the Utes.
Oregon State travels to Boulder to face Colorado on Sunday.
Utah will host Oregon on Saturday
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