SALT LAKE CITY — A few games into his college career, Jordan Loveridge saw routine shots miss time after time. His teammates and coaches have given him one consistent message — keep shooting.
Loveridge gladly obliged, scoring 22 points and keying a game-clinching run to power Utah past Wright State 66-54 on Saturday night at the Huntsman Center.
"All week, my teammates and coaches have been telling me to keep shooting, and it’ll come. Tonight, they finally started falling," said Loveridge, a freshman forward who grabbed nine rebounds as the Utes outboarded the Raiders 34-21.
Dallin Bachynski had 16 points and Jarred DuBois added 12 points and seven assists as Utah (4-1) won all three games of its Thanksgiving Tournament.
"We improved every single game," Bachynski said. "The level of competition increased each game, but we matched and exceeded it each time out. We grew as a team, and we’re headed in the right direction."
Reggie Arceneaux scored 12 points for the Raiders (3-2), who lost two of their three games in Utah.
Utah led 46-42 before Loveridge sparked a 15-2 run with two 3-pointers, a pair of free throws and a baseline jumper. DuBois capped the spurt with a layup to make it 61-42 with 4:53 to play.
The Utes shot 22 times from the free-throw line and converted 18 while Wright was 1 of 2 on free throws. The bigger and stronger Utes ran a number of plays going to the basket while the Raiders shot mostly jumpers.
"The attacks are different. We are trying to get it inside, and there’s going to be more contact by nature. They have a pick-and-roll game, and we switched every pick and tried to keep in front of guys," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said.
Taking the ball inside has been easier this year with Loveridge, who was the consensus Utah high school player of the year last season. Tentative in the past few games, Loveridge was more aggressive against WSU offensively and scored inside and outside.
"We are a lot stronger than most of our opponents, Dallin and me," Loveridge said. "We like to start games inside and play inside-out."
Though the competition has not been stiff, Krystkowiak has won three straight games for the first time at Utah.
"It feels great, especially because it has been three different win against three different styles of defense. We played better each game and learned some lessons," said Krystkowiak, whose team didn’t win its fourth game last year until Jan. 5.
The Raiders played aggressive man-to-man defense on the Utes and forced 15 turnovers, which led to 19 WSU points. But the Raiders shot only 5 of 19 from 3-point range and couldn’t stay with the Utes without fouling.