SALT LAKE CITY - Utah (5-4) ended the game on a 15-3 run to put away the Michigan Wolverines 68-52.
Carlon Brown killed any chance the Wolverines had of a comeback, hitting a three point shot from the right wing with just over four minutes left that gave the Utes a nine point lead and forced Michigan to call a timeout. "I just knew toward the end of the game I had to be more aggressive, and I had to try and close the game out and I was able to do that," Brown said. "We got some good stops, I got to the rim and got a couple layups, and I hit that three."
The Wolverines lone point after Brown's three came on a free throw by Ben Cronin. Brown was the player of the game for the Utes, as he finished with 12 points (10 in the second half), eight rebounds, and five assists. During a key three minute stretch that saw the Utes increase their lead from 50-46 to 64-51, Brown scored seven points, grabbed two defensive rebounds, handed out two assists and had a steal that lead to a layup.
Though Brown finished the game, true freshman Marshall Henderson got the Utes rolling by scoring 16 of the Utes first 21 points before finishing the game with a career-high and team-leading 22 points. Utah took a 35-27 lead into the half and though the Wolverines drew within a point of the Utes in the final 20 minutes, Utah seemingly had an answer for every Michigan challenge.
Michigan guard Manny Harris hit a layup that pulled the Wolverines to within a point at 42-41 with 12 minutes left, but missed the free throw that would have tied the ball game. Harris grabbed the rebound on his own miss but David Foster blocked the ensuing shot. Henderson grabbed the loose ball and drove the length of the court for a layup and a three point Utah lead. Michigan would not get closer, as the Utes outscored the Wolverines 24-11 the rest of the game.
Defense and rebounding - areas the young Utes have struggled with this season - fueled the Utah offense. Utah out-rebounded Michigan 41-25 and held the Wolverines to just 34% shooting from the field. Utah also blocked seven shots, led by Foster's five. "The rebounding disparity, the loose ball disparity, we were up five loose balls at halftime and we won the loose ball game the second half, that's what this team has to do," Utah head coach Jim Boylen said. "[In previous games] we've had leads in the second half, we've had leads dissipate, and then we haven't gotten the loose balls to push the lead back up. I thought we did that tonight. I'm proud of my group, we've grown."
Henderson's career night was a big confidence booster for a shooter in a slump. Henderson had not been shooting the ball well in previous games and was looking for a big night. "They run the 1-3-1 [zone defense], and that is great for a shooter," Henderson said of his career night. "I was just getting in open seams, teammates were finding me, and I just knocked down the shot. I've been waiting for a game like this since I got here because I know I am capable of doing it, and for it to happen against Michigan was great."
Though defeating Michigan, a team ranked in the top-15 at one point this season, is big for the program, the Utes need to be wary of coming out flat Saturday against Oklahoma. "We've just got to take them one at a time," Boylen said. "Oklahoma, we'll be ready for them. I'll do my best [at keeping the team focused]. They'll hear it from me."