Jakob Poeltl's rebounding carries Utah past Fresno State

By Michael Kelly, The Sports Xchange  |  March 18, 2016 at 1:20 AM
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DENVER -- Fresno State knew dealing with Utah forward Jakob Poeltl was going to be difficult.

The Bulldogs were right.

Poeltl had 16 points and a career-high 18 rebounds, Lorenzo Bonam scored 17, and third-seeded Utah beat 14th-seeded Fresno State 80-69 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Midwest Region on Thursday.

Brandon Taylor and Jordan Loveridge finished with 16 points apiece for Utah. The Utes (27-8) will face the winner of Seton Hall and Gonzaga on Saturday.

Poeltl outrebounded the entire Fresno State team, which finished with 15 boards overall.

"It was tough," Bulldogs senior Marvelle Harris said. "He's a great player. We knew it was going to be a challenge for us. We knew trying to jump up and use athleticism wasn't going to be enough against him. You have to put a body on him."

Poeltl said his rebounding totals, which included nine on the offensive end, were a product of missed shots.

"I missed a couple of easy shots and got my own rebound," he said. "I think that is one of the reasons why it came out as 18 rebounds."

Harris scored a game-high 24 points, and Karachi Edo and Julien Lewis added 14 each for the Bulldogs (25-10).

The Utes were in control for most of the night, but the Bulldogs went on a run in the second half to make it a game. Down 47-38, they surged into the lead on a Lewis 3-pointer.

"That run, a lot of that was self-inflicted, a combination of some turnovers," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "We took a couple of 'me' shots instead of 'we' shots. We couldn't defend them in transition."

The Utes didn't panic. They took back the lead on Bonam's jumper and then methodically built the advantage. Jordan Loveridge and Bonam hit 3-pointers, Brandon Taylor had a steal and a layup, and Poeltl hit two free throws as Utah went ahead 66-50.

Harris ended the 19-2 surge with a 3-pointer, and Edo's dunk cut the lead to eight, but Poeltl's three-point play ended the threat.

NOTES: The Utes held a 38-15 edge in rebounds. ... Fresno State made its first NCAA Tournament since 2001. ... The Utes are a third seed for the third time. One of the years they were in that position was 1998, when they reached the national championship game.

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