By:Marvin Chambers:|4.0 Sports Media
New York- In the first semi-final game of the NIT the Utah Utes defeated Western Kentucky in a battle 69-64 at “The World Famous Arena Tuesday night.
The Hilltoppers shot 31.8% (7-22) from the field and 22.2% (2-9) beyond the arc in the first quarter. Justin Johnson got Westen Kentucky started early with 10 points in the quarter and had his team up 19-13 at the end of the quarter.The Utes didn’t have an answer for Johnson and Darius Thompson on the perimeter.
In the second quarter the Utes regained their shooting touch and shot 61.5% from the elbows. Utah found the right mixture with Sedrick Barefield, Justin Bibbins, David Collette, and Donnie Tillman forced WKU out of their man-to-man defense in the quarter. The Utes also lit it up from beyond the arc tied the game going into the break at 32.
“Well, first off, give Utah credit. They made the plays in the last minute of the game that you’ve to make sometimes to win games, and they stepped up and made their free throws and hit the big three to kind of give them a little bit of separation. You know, these kind of games, it’s a fine line, winning and losing. And again, we can all look back on different plays that we could have and should have made and we didn’t make, or a call here or there. When you’re playing good teams, you know, like Utah, this late in the year, all of them are fine lines. Like I say, give them credit making plays” Western Kentucky head coach Rick Stansbury said.
The game was tied 13 times and the lead changed that many times as well. The difference in the second half Utah was able to established a post presence scoring 28 points in the paint versus WKU 24. Utah shot the ball really well in the third quarter 72% (8-11) from the floor. Barefield was the catalyst in the quarter dominating off the glass for easy buckets.
With 1:27 left in regulation the Hilltoppers was up by one 64-63. Tyler Rawson came the court with a pretty assist by Justin Bibbins hit a trey. WKU Lamonte Bearden fouled Justin Bibbins with 14 seconds in regulation, Bibbins connected on both free throws and sealed the win for the Utes.
Utah Justin Bibbins finished the game with 19 points and 4 assists. Sedrick Barefield chipped in 14 and David Collette had 13 points with 7 boards.
“Late in the game, I just, you know was trying to make a play. Coaches was telling me when I drove on the paint, people were opening on the outside, and I looked out and Ty was wide open and I just tried to make the right play and I was happy he knocked it down.” Utah forward Justin Bibbins said.
For the Hilltoppers Justin Johnson scored 24 points and Lamonte Bearden finished the game with 12 points along with 3 assists and 2 steals.