CHARLESTON, S.C. (ABC4 Sports) – Despite the efforts of a career-high night from Gabe Madsen, the Utah men’s basketball team fell just short in the Charleston Classic semifinal match against #6/6 Houston, 76-66, inside TD Arena.
Utah came out attacking first, taking a 12-4 lead after Branden Carlson knocked down a pair of free throws out of the timeout (16:29) by Houston. Rollie Worster made it 14-7 in favor of the Utes (3-1) before the sixth-ranked Cougars ramped up the defensive pressure and turned six Utah turnovers into eight points for the 17-16 edge with 11:20 left in the first half.
Things settled down from that point on with both teams combining to go just 2-for-15 from the field heading into the 7:21 media break with Houston (5-0) ahead 24-20. After Utah tied things up at 26-26 behind back-to-back triples from Gabe Madsen, Houston went on an 11-2 run for the 37-28 lead before Carlson’s bucket in the paint put an end to the scoring lull.
The Runnin’ Utes managed to head into the locker down just 39-30 despite giving up 12 points on eight turnovers in the first half against an aggressive Houston team thanks to Carlson (12) and Madsen (11) – who combined to account for 23 of Utah’s 30 first-half points.
A scoring lull for Utah out of the first media break in the second-half saw the Cougars take their largest lead of the game 50-36 at the 14:02 mark.
After six-straights points from the charity stripe by Utah to cut the Houston lead down to 51-42, Madsen got the offense rumbling when he sandwiched a lay-up from Lawson Lovering with a pair of treys to bring the Runnin’ Utes within 54-50 and 9:45 to play.
Madsen tied his career-high in points and 3-pointer made when he drained his seventh 3-pointer of the night for his 26th point to bring the Runnin’ Utes within 56-55. Worster tied things up at 56-56 when he knocked down the second of his two free-throws on the ensuing possession but the Cougars answered right back with an 8-0 run to force the Utes to call a timeout with 5:11 remaining.
The Utes got as close as 72-66 with 1:47 left to go after Madsen drained his career-high eighth triple for 29 points, but Houston showed why it was the sixth-ranked team in the country down the stretch and outscored the Utes 20-10 after the game was tied 56-56 with 7:09 left on the clock.
Madsen finished with a career-high 29 points on 10-of-19 shooting – eight of which came from beyond the arc. His eight triples ties Johnnie Bryant (Jan. 26, 2008 vs. TCU) for the second-most in a single-game at Utah. Carlson chipped in with 17 points and 8 rebounds after Thursday night’s performance. Lovering nearly had a double-double with 9 points and 8 rebounds while Worster also had 9 points to go with his 6 assists.
Utah moves to 1-9 all-time against the No. 6 ranked team in the country and 1-3 when playing them on neutral floors.
Utah will now play in the third-place game on Sunday, Nov. 19, against St. John’s at 3:30 p.m.