Utah Tech took on the best team in the WAC on Saturday and lost 75-65.

Here's the UT Sports Media Relations press release (link to full article).

(St. George, Utah – Jan. 6, 2024) Utah Tech men's basketball played Saturday night, hosting the Grand Canyon Lopes in a game that finished 75-65 in favor of the visitors. The result moves the Trailblazers' record to 6-9 and 2-2 in WAC play with a home game against Stephen F. Austin slated for next Thursday.
"That's why they're the number one team in our league – they're a really good team," Head Coach Jon Judkins said. "We knew they weren't going to die down when we built a lead… we knew they were going to make their run. We go on a 19-2 run in the first half and they go 17-4 in the second, it's what the game of basketball is all about, it's a game of runs.

"I thought our rebounding was excellent, we out-rebounded them which is something we preach nonstop," Judkins added. "We had these guys, had them on the ropes, so I know we can play with anybody."

After a Jaylen Searles jumper opened the game's scoring the Utah Tech offense found its groove, using a 9-0 run that was capped by a pair of Beon Riley free throws to take an 11-5 lead with 14:43 on the clock. That strong stretch continued as the Trailblazer defense made stop after stop against the Lopes' offense, resulting in offensive opportunities.

Hamed Olayinka got on the end of a David Elliott lob and slammed home an alley-oop before adding another dunk on the next possession, and a Tanner Christensen free throw capped what ended up being a 19-2 run that built the Utah Tech lead up to 21-7 with 9:55 remaining in the first half.

With an early three-pointer, Noa Gonsalves found his rhythm and continued to shoot the ball well, hitting several triples that helped build the Trailblazer lead to as much as 16 points. Layups by Riley and Tennessee Rainwater as well as another Gonsalves triple kept the lead at 16, with Gonsalves' fourth first half triple falling with 2:28 on the clock.

The Lopes ended the half with a 6-0 run but the Trailblazer lead stood at 10 as the halftime buzzer sounded.

Both teams traded buckets early in the second period but Utah Tech held an early advantag. David Elliott splashed his first triple of the game, putting the Utah Tech lead at 46-34 with 15:13 to play, but Grand Canyon would respond and use what finished as a 17-4 run to take a 48-47 lead at the 11:02 mark.

Riley soon hit a three-pointer to put Utah Tech back in the lead but the Lope offense continued to rumble; Christensen later threw down an emphatic jam to cut the deficit to four points heading into the under-eight media timeout.

Riley and Gonsalves both continued to make shots down the stretch but the visitors would take the 75-65 victory.

Gonsalves paired a team-high 19 points (6-11 FG, 4-8 3PT, 3-3 FT) with four rebounds while Riley's efforts culminated in 16 points (6-8 FG, 1-1 3PT, 3-3 FT), seven rebounds and two steals. Jaylen Searles scored nine points and grabbed a team-leading nine rebounds while Olayinka had seven points, four rebounds and one block. Christensen had four points, six rebounds and three rebounds while David Elliott put up a line of three points, six rebounds and a season-high six assists.

As a team Utah Tech shot 23-51 (45.1%) from the field, hitting six three-pointers and 13 shots at the line. UT controlled the glass to the tune of a 39-27 advantage, converting 12 offensive rebounds into 13 second chance points and 28 in the paint. With four steals and four blocks, the Trailblazers generated 10 Lope turnovers which were converted into 13 points – eight of which came on the fast break.

Utah Tech returns to action next Thursday, hosting Stephen F. Austin at home. Tipoff at Burns Arena is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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