Excellent win last night for the Trailblazers. They were down in the second half and came back and closed out the game against a good Stephen F. Austin team. Here's the press release from UT Athletics Media Relations: (full article)

(St. George, Utah – Jan. 11, 2024) Utah Tech men's basketball was in action Thursday night, defeating the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks 75-70 in front of 1,658 fans at Burns Arena. With the result, Utah Tech's season record improves to 7-9 with a 3-2 advantage over WAC opponents.

"We talk about it all the time – everyone goes on runs. We went on that 14-3 run to start the game, we came out with intensity and were getting after it, knocking down shots," Head Coach Jon Judkins said. "We went on our run, they go on their run in the second half… after that happened, guess what we did - we went on a 13-0 run from eight minutes until three minutes which was huge for us.

"That was a team win, we were fighting the whole way. The way Hamed was hitting the glass, Tanner too, I challenged Jaylen once to get us a board and he went down and got us a huge defensive rebound that changed the game," Judkins added. "I was happy with our foul shooting in crunch time, several guys made some huge shots which is something we've been working on this week… big win."

David Elliott made his first start of the 2023-24 season in a game that saw the Trailblazers shoot the lights out early on. Noa Gonsalves drained back-to-back triples to draw a Lumberjack timeout less than three minutes in, as he and Elliott added triples after the break to cap a 14-3 run in the game's opening five minutes.

SFA fought back into the game, however, but the Trailblazers continued to make plays. Beon Riley connected on a turnaround jumper to extend the lead back to six with 8:59 to go before Gonsalves hit his fifth triple of the first half at 5:54 on the clock. Elliott made a highlight-reel dunk soon after, blowing past his defender on the fast break and throwing down a right-handed flush much to the delight of Trailblazer faithful in attendance at Burns Arena.

The Lumberjacks promptly responded with a 9-2 run to take the lead and held a 38-36 advantage at the halftime buzzer.

Neither team shot the ball well early in the half but Utah Tech was able to bring the game within a single point thanks to Jaylen Searles, who took a Unisa Turay feed and connected on a triple with 15:55 on the clock to put the score at 42-41 in favor of SFA. A pair of Turay free throws one minute later once again brought the game within a single point but the visitors continued to maintain a small lead.

Dunks by Gonsalves and Tanner Christensen both kept the game within three points but SFA would extend the lead back to six, but the Trailblazers once again battled back and regained the lead on the back of Hamed Olayinka.

Utah Tech's 6-9 big man scored eight points in a 10-0 run that was highlighted by a trio of dunks, including a two-handed finish off a lob from Turay; Turay drew an offensive foul on the next possession and made both free throws to put the Trailblazer lead at seven, 64-57, with 3:19 to play.

After holding the Lumberjacks without a made shot from the field for nearly eight minutes of game action, the final stretch was fueled by free throws, with the teams combining to score 17-straight points off free throws before the visitors used a layup to put the score 70-68 in favor of UT with 36 seconds remaining in the game.

Olayinka connected on a pair of clutch shots at the line to extend the lead back to four mere seconds later before the lead was cut back to two with 31 seconds on the clock. Despite the visitors' best efforts, Gonsalves, Christensen and Olayinka made clutch free throws in the game's final seconds to seal the 75-70 victory.

Gonsalves finished with 18 points (6-8 FG, 5-6 3PT), three rebounds and two steals while Olayinka's night finished with a season-high 13 points to go with five rebounds, three blocks and three steals. Elliott's first start of the season ended with 11 points (5-9 FG) in 26 minutes while Riley had a line of 10 points, two rebounds and four assists. Searles scored eight points to go with five rebounds and three steals while Turay shot 6-8 from the line to finish with eight points, three rebounds and two steals; Christensen finished with a career-high six assists to go with seven points (1-2 FG, 5-6 FT), seven rebounds and three blocks.

As a team Utah Tech shot 24-45 (53.3%) from the field and 8-17 (47.1%) from deep, hitting 19 shots at the line and holding a lead for nearly 22 minutes of game action. With 13 steals and eight blocks, the Trailblazers forced 17 Lumberjack turnovers that were converted into 11 points and eight on the break. The UT bench chipped in 21 points as the team's 53.3% shooting from the field marked the third time that a Trailblazer team has shot 50% or better from the field in a game this season.

Utah Tech returns to action next weekend, facing Southern Utah and Utah Valley on the road.

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