Utah (3-2) overcame a 16-point halftime deficit to defeat No. 20 Illinois (4-1) 60-58 Friday night in Las Vegas.
True freshman Shawn Glover banked in a 14-foot runner at the buzzer to pull off the upset. Officials reviewed Glover's shot, taking several minutes before determining the shot was good.
After Illinois missed a potential game-winning shot, Jay Watkins - playing in his first game as a Ute - grabbed the rebound with four seconds left and threw the ball down the court to Glover who took off down court when the shot went up. "Glover's going to be a special player in this program," head coach Jim Boylen said of his freshman.
"We just hung in there," Boylen said. "I thought we showed some grit. This is a big win for our program and I'm thankful for it."
While Glover hit the game winning shot, it was a team effort that pulled off the upset. After scoring just 16 points in the first 20 minutes, Utah turned on the offense in the second half, scoring 44 points and shooting the ball extremely well. The Utes missed as many shots in the second half as they made in the first, shooting a scorching 69.6% (16-of-23 from the field) in the second half after shooting just 24% (7-of-29) to open the game. Glover also gave the Utes their first lead of the second half, hitting 1-of-2 free throws to put the Utes up 51-50.
Luka Drca led the Utes with 16 points, 14 in the second half to fuel the Utah comeback. Watkins added 12 points, three rebounds and led the Utes with two assists. Illinois guard Demetri McCamey led all scorers with 19 points and teammate Mike Tisdale added 18 points and six rebounds.
Utah had jumped out to a quick 8-6 lead to start the game, but Illinois responded with an 18-to-2 run that appeared to put away the struggling Utes. The first half ended with Illinois on fire and a 32-16 lead. Utah looked overmatched in the first half as Illinois easily got whatever they wanted on both ends of the floor.
Utah started chipping away in the second half, pulling to within 13 points at 48-35 with 9:27 left before going on their only big run. Over the next four minutes, the Utes outscored the Illini 15-to-2, tying the game up at 50 with just over five minutes left. The teams went back-and-forth from there before Glover's winning basket.
Utah advances to face Oklahoma State in the championship game of the Las Vegas Invitational Saturday night while Illinois will play Bradley. The Utah-Oklahoma State game will tip-off at 8:30 pm mountain time.
Neither team could buy a three, combining to hit just 3-of-23 from beyond the arc. Utah hit 2-of-14, both by Drca in the second half during the Utes lone run.
David Foster had another solid game. The 7-foot-3 sophomore scored six points, grabbed six rebounds (four offensive), and blocked three shots.
Carlon Brown's shooting woes continue. Brown scored nine points and pulled down nine rebounds, but only had one assist and shot just 3-of-15 from the field. Brown is shooting just 34.3% on the season (34.8% from three)
In a related note, five Utes are struggling with their shot and are shooting below 40% through the first five games. They are Brown, Drca (37.1% field, 28.6 from 3), Marshall Henderson (35.7%, 25%), Jordan Cyphers (35%, 33%), and Jace Tavita (14.3%, 20%).
Utah only had five assists and turned the ball over 15 times.
After missing his first four free throws of the season, Drca has now hit his last 18, including his 4-for-4 effort against Illinois.