Bealer scores 20, Utah bests Mississippi Valley State 91-51
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Gabe Bealer still hasn’t fully recovered from a broken foot suffered in July, but no one could tell Monday night.
Bealer scored 20 points and Utah eased its way to a 91-51 victory over Mississippi Valley State.
“Last game I struggled a little bit,” Bealer said. “This game the rim was just really big. I was just comfortable out there. Made one and just kept shooting.
“It’s definitely a mental thing when shots aren’t falling early on. I definitely got in my head last game. The second three was pretty deep. (Then) I was pretty confident it was one of those nights.”
Teammate Chris Seeley added, “I didn’t know he could shoot the ball like that.”
The Utes are now 2-0 as they attempt to create a new identity after losing four of their top six scorers from last season, including Los Angeles Lakers first-round pick Kyle Kuzma.
Bealer carried the load against the Delta Devils with a 7-for-10 shooting night, including six 3-pointers. Freshman Donnie Tillman added 12 off the bench as the Utes shot a gaudy 50 percent from the floor.
Utah was without starting guard Sedrick Barefield (stomach virus) and big man Jayce Johnson (ankle).
“The only thing on the stat sheet I’m disappointed in is the 16 turnovers ... that can’t be our Achilles heel,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “Tonight, it was important to try to get some guys who haven’t been playing extended minutes (some time). It was a great conditioner for them. We’re going to need those guys in the mix and figure out what our rotation is.
“The more guys that we can get that are productive, the better off for our team. I’d be perfectly fine with five guys scoring in double figures. There’s going to be different nights for different guys.”
Gemaal Davis paced Mississippi Valley State with 13 points and Jordan Evans added eight. The Delta Devils (0-2) were outmatched in size and athleticism and shot just 28.6 percent from the field.
Salt Lake City is the second stop of a three-game Utah trip for Mississippi Valley State. It played BYU in Provo on Saturday, Utah on Monday and finish out at Utah State in Logan on Wednesday
“I wanted to see a better fight, and I didn’t get that,” MVSU coach Andre Payne said. “After we got down 15, then we wanted to fight. But you can’t do that when you’re on the road playing against high-major schools.
“We’ve learned that there’s a lot of things that we have to work on to build continuity. We have 11 new guys out of 13. They don’t understand, yet, where they’re good at and what their role is for this team. ... That’s what we’re going to use this trip for.”
Mississippi Valley State: The Utes provided Valley with a good test against a Pac-12 program, but these nonconference losses mean little. It’s all about SWAC play for the Delta Devils and Monday was a good payday, but an expected loss.
Utah: The early season is all about the Utes finding themselves. Barefield is expected to be one of Utah’s leading scorers this season, but he was unavailable. Johnson has yet to play. So those are two major rotation players, but the Utes were able to get several down-the-line players significant minutes. An aggressive press defense bothered the Utes for the second game in a row.
Mississippi Valley State: The Delta Devils continue their Utah road trip with a final stop at Utah State on Wednesday.
Utah: The Utes host expected lottery pick Michael Porter, Jr. and the Missouri Tigers on Thursday.