SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Brandon Taylor scored 19 points while Jordan Loveridge and Jakob Poeltl added 18 apiece to lead No. 25 Utah to a 90-72 victory over Ball State in its season opener on Friday night.
The Utes (1-0) blew open a tight game in the final five minutes with dominant play around the basket and on the perimeter. Utah had a 35-22 advantage on the boards over the Cardinals (0-1) and enjoyed a 42-14 edge in points in the paint.
Utah also had 11 steals and scored 24 points off those turnovers. It resulted in a crisp offensive performance for the Utes, who shot 59.2 percent (29 of 49) from the field.
Sean Sellers scored 26 points and Zavier Turner added 14 for Ball State. The Cardinals shot 45.5 percent from outside (10 of 22) but it was not enough to hang with an explosive Utah offense.
Poeltl lit an early fuse under the Utes with his dominant play around the basket. Starting with a dunk and culminating in a tip-in basket, the freshman 7-footer scored on four of five first-half possessions. He helped the Utes score the first nine points and race out to a 15-5 lead.
Utah hit six straight shots at one point and made 12 of its first 16 field goal attempts. The Utes lead by 13 points in the first half, taking a 25-12 lead on Delon Wright’s layup with 8:43 remaining before halftime.
Ball State cut into the lead from the perimeter. The Cardinals shot 50 percent (5-of-10) from 3-point range.
Turner hit three baskets – including a pair of 3-pointers – over a minute and half stretch to spark a rally late in the half. Ball State pulled within four, making it 32-28 on Matt Kamieniecki’s dunk with 2:12 left in the half.
The Cardinals stayed hot from outside early in the second half, pulling with three at 43-40 when Rocco Belcaster hit a 3-pointer with 16:20 left. Ball State could not take the lead, but still found ways to make Utah uncomfortable throughout the second half. The Cardinals remained within striking distance, trailing 69-63 after Jeremie Tyler’s 3-pointer with 5:48 left.
Loveridge made several plays to spark a decisive 16-0 run down the stretch. He stepped in front of a pass for a steal and drove for a layup to get it started. Then the junior forward hit a 3-pointer to put Utah back up by double digits.
Kenneth Ogbe capped the run with back-to-back 3-pointers and Poeltl added a free throw to give Utah an 85-63 lead with 2:14 remaining.
Utah: The Utes are starting the season ranked in the AP Top 25 for the first time since the 2000-01 season. . Utah clamped down on opponents at the perimeter a year ago. The Utes held teams to 30.8 percent shooting from 3-point range – the lowest in the Pac-12.
Ball State: The Cardinals continued their road struggles from last season. Ball State went 0-16 away from its home arena in 2013-14. . Former Utah coach Rick Majerus coached at Ball State for two seasons before joining the Utes. He posted a 43-17 record in two seasons from 1987-89. Majerus led the Cardinals to the NCAA Tournament in his second season there.
Utah plays at San Diego State on Tuesday, November 18.
Ball State hosts Indiana University – Kokomo on Monday, November 17.