Princeton Onwas added 14 points off the bench and Delon Wright chipped in 12 points, five rebounds and four steals to lead the Utes (5-0) to their third victory in three days. Utah also used good free-throw shooting to put away the pesky Tigers.
“Jordan hit some big shots but the thing that really stood out to me was our free-throw shooting," head coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "We finished 25-of-27 with Princeton going 8-for-8 and Dallin making two big ones. It’s the little things that make the biggest difference. It’s a real fine line you have to walk sometimes.”
Utah is off to its best beginning since its run to the national championship game in 1998 and this marks only the third time since 1968 that the squad has started a season, 5-0. This also marks the first five-game winning streak for the Utes under Krystkowiak, as the team has won nine of their last 10 dating back to the 2012-13 season.
“I was impressed with how we handled their pressure," Krystkowiak added. "We only had five turnovers all game and played a flawless first half except for that initial possession. I thought we settled tonight with some shots and our ball movement was just a little too stagnant.”
Deven Williams scored 16 points off the bench to lead the Tigers, but it was not enough to prevent Savannah State (2-6) from losing three straight games in the three-day round robin tournament.
Utah did not play with the offensive energy and fire it showed on Thursday and Friday. The Utes needed a big performance from Loveridge and strong defense to keep the Tigers at arm's length.
“I knew I had to attack more and my teammates told me as much," Loveridge stated. "I just want to do whatever my team needs me to do. I think we struggled some, but it was our third game in three days and they’re a very tough and physical team.”
Utah held a 10 point lead at halftime, but the Utes could not quite shake Savannah State during much of the second half. Every time Utah scored a basket that threatened to swing momentum in its direction, the Tigers quickly answered on the other end.
Savannah State closed within six points three times during the second half - the final time on a layup from Deven Williams that cut Utah's lead to 50-44. The Tigers still only trailed by seven at 57-50 after Joshua Montgomery scored a 3-pointer when Loveridge and Onwas combined to give the Utes some extra breathing room.
Onwas made a jumper and a pair of free throws to spark a 9-3 run. Loveridge capped off the run with his own jumper to give Utah a 66-53 lead with 3:10 left.
The Tigers cut the deficit to single digits once more, making it 66-57 on a jumper from Williams with 1:56 left. But Utah hit 5-of-6 free throws in the final two minutes to secure the win.
Savannah State came out on fire to open the game. The Tigers made their first five baskets - with three coming from Fenner - to stake out a 10-8 lead. Utah put on the defensive brakes and Savannah State went ice cold after that point. They missed their next six shots over a span of nearly six minutes.
The Utes took full advantage of the drought. Utah ripped off a 10-0 run to take the lead for the first time. Loveridge punctuated the spurt with a layup to give the Utes an 18-10 lead with 12:35 left before halftime.
It opened the door for Utah to break the game open. Savannah State kept things from playing out that way. The Tigers chipped away at the lead over the next few minutes and pulled within three at 26-23 when Hikeem Champaigne hit a jumper with 5:00 remaining in the half.
Utah did not let Savannah State finish off the rally. Loveridge converted a 3-point play to extend the lead again and then beat the buzzer with a coast-to-coast layup, putting Utah ahead 38-28 going into the locker room. His final basket before halftime gave Utah its first double-digit lead of the game.
Savannah State faced an uphill battle trying to regain the lead before halftime. The Tigers shot just 35 percent from the field over the final 15 minutes of the first half. Utah imposed its will in the paint. The Utes had a 22-10 advantage in points in the paint and an 11-4 edge in second-chance points by halftime.
The Utes are back in action this Wednesday evening at 8 p.m. when they host Ball State.