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Utes beat UC-Davis after unexpected inspiration from Coach K

The first ten minutes of the Utah Runnin’ Utes NIT first-round win over UC-Davis were dismal at best. The energy in the Huntsman Center was low, players looked disinterested and the officials didn’t seem to be watching the game.

The Utes started off sluggish, as they shot poorly and allowed the Aggies to jump out to an early lead – one that would grow to as many 11 points in the opening half.

Runnin’ Utes head coach Larry Krystowiak changed that in a hurry just before halftime. After a third-consecutive controversial call, Krystowiak charged the floor towards official Bob Staffen. The ball was still in play as Krystowiak shot across the key, earning him his first technical foul. He wasn’t done yet; storming back after the official, throwing a chair and continuously giving Staffen an earful on his way out of the arena.

The crowd was electrified and energized, giving ‘Coach K’ a standing ovation as he rumbled up the causeway towards the locker room. The 6-foot-10 behemoth storming his way around the Jon M. Huntsman Center was a sight to behold and it left assistant coach Tommy Connor with a newly-inspired squad – one that went on to outscore the Aggies by 18 after the outburst.

Utah’s bursted-bubble-hangover seemed to wear off following Krystowiak’s awe-inspiring display of resurrective rage, as the Utes quickly closed the gap. They started knocking down shots, getting to loose-balls and crashing the glass as they chipped away at the deficit.

Grabbing their first lead of the game with just under ten minutes to go, the Utes never looked back en route  to the 69-59 win, giving them their first postseason victory since March of 2016, when Utah beat Fresno State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Guard Justin Bibbins led the way for Utah. The 5-foot-8 senior pulled down six rebounds and poured in a game-high 21 points while going 8-8 from the charity stripe. Donnie Tillman had an efficient 11 points on four shots while only playing 17 minutes.

Senior Tyler Rawson was the only other Ute in double figures as he notched a near double-double with 11 points and nine boards.

The win extends the Utah season and gives fans another chance to see the Runnin’ Utes in the Huntsman Center as they welcome the No. 3 seed LSU Tigers to Salt Lake City on Monday. The 7p.m. tipoff of the NIT second-round can be seen on ESPNU or heard on ESPN700.

For more Utes coverage and content, follow Porter Larsen on twitter @Larsen_ESPN and subscribe on YouTube.


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