SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – After three relatively dominating wins to start the season, the Utes men’s basketball team went cold and suffered its first defeat, losing at home to Sam Houston State, 65-55, in the campus game of the Ft. Myers Tip-off Tournament.
Rollie Worster led the Utes with 14 points, while Lazar Stefanovic added 12. Leading scorer Brandon Carlson was held to nine points and seven rebounds, as the Utes committed 16 turnovers and put up just 46 shots.
Qua Grant scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half to lead the Bearkats. Sam Houston State (4-0) beat Oklahoma 52-51 in their opener, their first win over a Power 5 program since 2009.
The Bearkats only shot 39% but put up 16 more shots thanks to a 41-31 rebounding advantage and 16 Utah turnovers. No other player hit double figures.
Utah took a 3-2 lead in the opening minutes before Sam Houston took a 4-2 lead and never looked back. The Runnin’ Utes went down 21-8 after a dry spell on offense that allowed the Bearkats go on a 12-3 run deep into the first half.
Out of the 5:15 timeout by SHSU, Utah’s line up of Worster, Luka Tarlac, Wilguens Jr. Exacte, Mike Saunders Jr. and Carlson finally found some rhythm on the offensive end and gave Utah an 8-3 run to get within 23-16 at the final media timeout of the half (2:57).
A 3-pointer from Gabe Madsen followed by a long jumper from Marco Anthony closed the gap (27-23) against the Bearkats heading into the locker room. The bright spots for Utah (3-1) heading into the break was that it assisted on 8-of-10 made shots and despite turning the ball over 11 times to SHSU’s six, the points off turnover margin was in favor of Utah 5-4.
The second stanza saw a lot of back-and-forth action with both teams exchanging short runs before a lay-in from Lazar Stefanovic brought Utah within 41-40 of Sam Houston and 10:55 remaining. However, SHSU’s Qua Grant reeled off six-straight points to put the Bearkats back on top 47-40 with 8:17 remaining. Grant ended the night with a game-high 22 points.
Utah responded with a 9-4 run capped off by a pair of free-throws from Worster to make it a one possession game (51-49) with 5:16 left to go but the stingy defense from Sam Houston (4-0) allowed it to finish off the game on a 14-6 spur and hand Utah its first loss of the season.
Worster made 5-of-6 shots from the field, to go along with with seven boards and five assists. Anthony added eight points off the bench on 4-of-6 shooting with four boards in his season debut.
Utah now turns its attention to the main Ft. Myers Tip-Off bracket where it’ll open up against Georgia Tech – who is currently 3-0 after defeating Northern Illinois Thursday night 68-50 – on Monday, Nov. 21.