Fresno State turned a budding blowout into an interesting game in the second half, but Utah was ultimately too much, using a 19–2 run after falling behind by one point to notch an 80–69 win in its first-round matchup in Denver. Lorenzo Bonam led the way with 17 points, while Jakob Poeltl had 16 to go along with a career-high 18 rebounds.
WHY IT MATTERS
The Utes won nine straight games before getting waxed by Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game last weekend, so even though they were 8.5-point favorites over Fresno State, it had to feel good to get back on the right path. Utah was absolutely dominant on the glass, but it racked up 20 turnovers, which kept the Bulldogs in the game much longer that it appeared they would be at halftime. Fresno State was among the most active defenses in the country this season, but Utah is going to have to play a much cleaner game on Saturday to advance to the Sweet 16. It also can’t afford a scoring drought from Poeltl like the one he suffered in the second half against the Bulldogs.
Utah moves onto the second round to take on the winner of Seton Hall and Gonzaga in what should be a wildly entertaining game, regardless of the opponent.