College Hoops

Runnin’ Utes Run in NIT Comes to a Close in Semifinals

Runnin' Utes Run in NIT Comes to a Close in Semifinals


INDIANAPOLIS – The Utah men’s basketball team’s run in the National Invitation Tournament came to an end Tuesday night in its semifinal against the top-seeded Indiana State Sycamores, 100-90, inside a packed Hinkle Fieldhouse.
 
The Runnin’ Utes finish their season 22-15 overall and are now 3-2 all-time in NIT semifinal games. The 22 wins is the most in a season since the 2017-18 season when Utah advanced to the title game of the NIT.
 
Both teams went at each other early on – but it was Indiana State’s Robbie Avila who did all the scoring early for the Sycamores (32-6), posting 13-straight points to put the Utes behind 15-7 out of the 15:41 media break.
 
Down 23-13 at the second media break, Utah began to mount its run by hitting five-straight baskets to cut away at the ISU lead to 31-25 with 7:55 left in the half on back-to-back 3-pointers from Hunter Erickson and Branden Carlson.
 
The Runnin’ Utes continued their offensive barrage against the Sycamores, knocking down another string of baskets – this time six-straight buckets to take their first lead since the opening basket and forced an ISU timeout leading 34-33 with 4:57 on the clock.
 
Back-and-forth baskets ensued with neither team backing down answering one another down to the buzzer to send the Utes and Sycamores into the locker room tied 44-44.
 
The second half opened the same way the first half ended with both teams exchanging blows before four turnovers in a 2:49 minute span allowed ISU to go on a 6-0 run and force a Utah timeout down 61-56 with 11:32 left to play.
 
Indiana State’s offense continued to play in rhythm, hitting six of its next eight shots to extend its lead on the Utes to 77-66 despite Utah hitting 4-of-7 from the field during that same stretch to force yet another Utah timeout (7:27).
 
Utah did its best to claw back and brought the lead down to 10 a couple times thanks to a career-high night from Deivon Smith as he went 6-for-6 from 3-point range. However, the clock became Utah’s biggest enemy as it fell to the Sycamores.
 
Smith finished with a career-high 28 points on 10-of-16 shooting with 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Carlson closed out his career inside Hinkle Fieldhouse with 17 points and 5 rebounds. Cole Bajema, who was at one point 4-for-4 from the field, closed the night with 14 points. Ben Carlson chipped in with 11 points off the bench for Utah while Erickson added 10 points and 5 assists of his…

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