November 29, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Even after one season, Kenneth Ogbe felt a little uncertain about his role.

The Utah sophomore already showed plenty of promise as a perimeter threat, but hitting flurries of 3-pointers in short bursts did not always feel satisfying. Ogbe wanted to do more and find ways to have a greater impact with the Utes.

So he met with Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak to find out what he needed to do to see more court time and Ogbe got some much needed answers about his role.

''He just told me what he wanted from me when he says certain things,'' Ogbe said. ''It was probably my fault. I just didn't get it at first. But he just cleared all that all up. Now it's working. That has really helped me.''

Ogbe showed what he can do when everything is working. He scored a career-high 19 points while shooting 50 percent from the field and 3-point range to help lead Utah to a 93-62 victory over Alabama State on Saturday night.

Delon Wright led the way for the Utes by scoring 24 points, collecting seven rebounds and dishing out six assists. It was Ogbe who drew the most attention, however, by showing there was much more to his game than being a 3-point specialist.

He attacked the rim and got to the line. Ogbe crashed the boards. He did many different things to make his presence known around the basket.

''I was just trying to be aggressive,'' Ogbe said. ''It started last year when everyone started telling me I needed to be more aggressive and shoot the ball. (They told me), `You can shoot the ball. Don't settle for threes all the time.' So I've just tried to be aggressive and stay focused.''

Dakarai Tucker chipped in 12 points and Jakob Poeltl added 11 points and eight rebounds for the Utes. Utah (5-1) won all three games it played during its annual Thanksgiving tournament by an average margin of 35 points.

Jamel Waters scored 19 points to lead Alabama State, who trailed wire to wire. The Hornets (2-3) kept it close for much of the first half, but could not overcome cold shooting to open the second half.

The Hornets could do nothing to counter Utah's quickness. The Utes forced 17 turnovers and finished with a 30-5 advantage in points off those plays.

''They made it tough to do what we were trying to do with our offense,'' Alabama State coach Lewis Jackson said. ''They doubled our big guy all night and made it difficult for him. We also had problems scoring and when we went through some scoring droughts, our defense fell off and allowed them to get in the lane and tally too much.''

Utah scored on five straight possessions to open the game. Ogbe drained a 3-pointer, then stole the ball and took it in for a layup to cap that stretch and give the Utes a quick 13-2 lead.

Alabama State quickly fought back. Jamel Waters hit a pair of three-pointers to cap a brief Hornets run and cut Utah's lead to 19-16 with 12:00 minutes left in the first half.

Dallin Bachynski prevented Alabama State from getting closer. Bachynski made baskets on back-to-back possessions to give the Utes a little more breathing room. Then Dakari Tucker added a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to push Utah's lead back out to eight at 26-18.

The Hornets cooked up one more first-half run. Alabama State scored seven unanswered points, capped by a 3-pointer from Bobby Brown off a steal, to cut Utah's lead back to three at 32-29 with 5:53 left before halftime.

Momentum swung back in Utah's favor after Robert Ojeah committed a flagrant foul, undercutting Ogbe as he drove to the basket. Ogbe made a pair of free throws and Wright drained a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to help fuel a 11-0 run that put Utah ahead 43-29 with 3:02 remaining in the half.

The biggest key for staying a step ahead of Alabama State was winning the turnover battle. Utah took care of the ball and it made all the difference.

''Turnovers are big,'' Krystkowiak said. ''You talk about it in football all the time. This is the bowl season and typically the team that wins the turnover battle in a football game wins the game. We need to start thinking about that in those terms with us, too.''

The Utes erased any comeback threat early in the second half. Utah scored baskets on three straight possessions to sprint out to a 56-35 lead with 16:52 remaining.

Alabama State missed 12 consecutive shots to open the second half before Wendell Lewis broke the ice on a jumper with 14:29 left. Tucker scored three straight baskets to fuel an 11-0 Utah run before the Hornets could get another basket. His outburst helped give the Utes a 68-38 lead with 11:52 remaining.

TIP INS

Utah: Early turnovers helped Utah lead from start to finish. The Utes forced 11 first-half turnovers and scored 21 points off those plays. They held a 21-3 edge over the Hornets in that category by halftime. . Utah held Alabama State 23.8 points below its season scoring average. . The Utes had a 40-16 advantage in points in the paint.

Alabama State: The Hornets were the preseason pick to win the SWAC after returning 11 players - including all five starters - this season. . Jamel Waters averaged 16.0 points and 5.3 assists to lead Alabama State over the three-game Utah Thanksgiving Tournament.

TOUGHENING SLATE

Utah faces a brutal stretch of games in December. The Utes will play Wichita State, BYU, Kansas and UNLV in a 17-day stretch before Christmas. All but one of those games are away from home.

CLEANING UP LITTLE THINGS

What does a team learn from a series of blowout wins? Utah insists there are plenty of lessons to be applied from its annual Thanksgiving tournament. The Utes need to make free throws, crash the boards and prevent turnovers. ''I don't sense that we'll have a lack of energy, but we've got to make free throws, take care of the ball, and rebound,'' Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. ''We have learned little lessons along the way this season and it's imperative that we're focused and ready to give them our best shot.''

UP NEXT

Utah hosts Wichita State on Wednesday.

Alabama State hosts Jacksonville State on Saturday.

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