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Utah rides five-game winning streak into date with Bellarmine


Utah is building serious momentum before Pac-12 play gets underway in late December.

The Utes (8-2) have reeled off five straight victories ahead of a first-time meeting with Bellarmine on Wednesday night in Salt Lake City.

Utah defeated Utah Valley 76-62 on Saturday for its most recent win. Branden Carlson led the way with 26 points, his third 20-point game of the season so far.

Strong defense lifted the Utes past the Wolverines. Utah Valley missed its final seven shots and did not score a point over the final 2:42 of the game after cutting the deficit to five.

“The last 30 minutes of the game, we really guarded well,” Utah coach Craig Smith said.

Saturday also marked the Utah debut for Deivon Smith, a two-time transfer who came to the Utes from Georgia Tech. A court injunction cleared the way for Smith and other two-time transfers to play this season without needing an NCAA waiver.

Smith had two assists and a steal in 11 minutes. The plan is for him to share point guard duties with Rollie Worster once he is fully comfortable on the floor.

“I do see him having the ball in his hands a lot,” Craig Smith said. “He can really make plays. He’s got great speed.”

Bellarmine (4-8) will play two buy games in the Beehive State this week. After facing Utah on Wednesday, the Knights will clash with No. 17 BYU in Provo on Friday.

“This Utah team has what all great teams have — balance,” Bellarmine coach Scott Davenport told the school’s athletics website. “They score inside and outside while playing great defense holding their opponents to 42 percent from the field. They are the biggest team in the country and utilize the length at both ends of the floor.”

Success has been limited for Bellarmine this season. The Knights have posted just one win over a Division I opponent thus far.

Missed opportunities have abounded in many of those losses. Defeats against Kansas State, West Virginia and Louisville have come by a total of 17 points.

Saturday’s 70-61 loss to Evansville snapped a two-game winning streak for Bellarmine. Langdon Hatton led the Knights with 18 points and 11 rebounds — notching his third straight double-double. Top scorer Ben Johnson (12.3 points per game) returned to action after missing four games with a hip injury.

–Field Level Media

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