SALT LAKE CITY — Tyler Rawson and Justin Bibbins knew they’d have to pick up some of the slack with two starters and Utah’s sixth man out with injuries. The duo made it look easy with a combined 50 points and barrage of 3-pointers.
Rawson and Bibbins both scored a career-high 25 points as Utah rolled over Northwestern State 84-62 in the nonconference season finale on Wednesday night.
“I just knew when we have guys down, there’s a lot of offense that we’re missing,” Rawson said. “Be a little more selfish and take some more shots I normally don’t take. I’m glad they were going in today.
“We both were just feeding off each other.”
Utah (8-3) jumped out to a 23-5 lead and cruised the rest of the way against the fifth-youngest team in the country. The Utes were on fire during that early stretch, knocking down 7 of 10 3-pointers as Rawson set the tone. He knocked down his first four shots from behind the arc while scoring 12 points during a 14-1 start.
Utah buried a season-high 15 triples, the third-most in school history.
“We’ve been overdue,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said about the 3-point shooting. “We talked about it a little in pregame, if we can start hitting some 3s and continue to defend.
“Tyler and Justin … have both kind of been the steady-eddies for our group. They’ve been the guys most consistent.”
The Demons (3-8) began the game 2 for 13 from the field, 0 for 3 from long range and never recovered.
Bibbins hit a career-high seven 3-pointers and had six assists for the Utes as Sedrick Barefield added 12. Jayce Johnson had a career-high 15 rebounds.
“I just tried to get in the offense,” said Bibbins, who never hit seven 3-pointers in any game at any level. “Don’t try to force it too much, but of course we have to understand that we have to get a little more shots up in order for us to win.
“I didn’t even know I hit seven. I just kept shooting, it felt good. They were open shots. Coach (Tommy) Connor kept telling me to look for my shot up at the top. … I’ve been working on my shot a lot this break.”
Iziahiah Sweeney led Northwestern State with 18 points and Ishmael Lane chipped in 13.
Injuries struck the Utah roster in the last three days as the Utes were without starting big man and leading scorer David Collette, who was out with a hip injury and is considered day-to-day. He was joined on the sideline by starting forward Gabe Bealer (knee). Freshman Donnie Tillman, the team’s second-leading rebounder and third-leading scorer, missed a second consecutive game with a foot injury.
“I hate to say it, but it was like we were sleepwalking,” Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy said about the slow start. “We had so many turnovers in the first half with them slamming down on the ball and making good basketball plays. We were not as tough with the ball as we needed to be.”
Northwestern State: The Demons simply didn’t have the skill to keep up with the Pac-12 opponent. The defense allowed wide open shots and repeated drives to the basket. The offense was erratic. And all of this came against an extremely short-handed Utah squad. Northwestern State finished the nonconference season 0-3 against Power 5 teams.
Utah: Realistically, there wasn’t much for the Utes to take from this one. They were down two starters and their sixth man against the No. 225 RPI team in the country. The game felt more like a scrimmage as players who only see mop-up duty received early minutes, and Utah still led start-to-finish. The game was never in doubt.
NO INJURY TIMELINE
Krystkowiak said they’re in a holding pattern with the injuries and don’t have a real timeline for when guys will return. He hopes some rest during Christmas break will get them ready for Pac-12 play. “We’re not told that anybody’s out two weeks and we’re not told that anybody should be ready to go,” Krystkowiak said.
Northwestern State: Travels to begin the Southland Conference schedule at Nicholls State on Dec. 28.
Utah: Travels to open Pac-12 play at Oregon on Dec. 29.