SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Jordan Loveridge scored 17 points and Dakarai Tucker added 14 to help Utah overwhelm St. Katherine 124-51 on Saturday to extend its home winning streak to 13 games.
Ahmad Fields tallied 13 points, Parker Van Dyke had 11 and Dallin Bachynski 10 as the Utes shot 67 percent from the field. Delon Wright posted 15 rebounds and six assists against the Firebirds, who fell to 2-13.
Alex Perez scored 13 points for St. Katherine, an NAIA school playing its debut season. The four games the Firebirds have played against Division 1 schools have resulted in losses with an average margin of 70 points.
Utah led 19-0 before Perez finally broke the drought with a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 10:38 left in the first half that brought sympathy cheers from the crowd.
The Utes improved to 11-1, the team's best start since 1997-98 — the year they went all the way to the National Championship game. The difference in scheduling is glaring as Utah has only played one road game and slated a bevy of easy wins like this one.
Perhaps the biggest news from this blowout was the entrance of Marko Kovacevic, Utah's 6-foot-11 post player who just recently began practicing after a broken wrist. The Ute coaching staff had been considering redshirting the junior transfer from Western Community College but he entered the game in the first half and played eight minutes. He finished with eight points and six rebounds.
Ironically, this was only Utah's second largest margin of victory this season. The Utes beat Evergreen State in the opener, 128-44 — the widest margin of any college game this year.
The Firebirds, who lost Friday night at No. 20 San Diego State 118-35, took a morning flight to Salt Lake City and didn't arrive until a few hours before tip off.
St. Katherine players are accustomed to inconveniences. The team usually practices late at night at a Boys and Girls Club after the local men's leagues finishes. The Firebirds play home games at Ramona High School, 40 minutes away from their campus in a San Diego office building. The school enrollment is listed as 102.
With their inside players the same height as some of Utah's guards, the Firebirds largely steered clear of post-ups or drives to the hoop. Instead, they passed it around the perimeter and attempted short penetration-and-kicks to waiting 3-point shooters.
Only problem was the St. Katherine shots were often far from true and they even had several long-range heaves blocked by Utah's athletic wing players. The Firebirds attempted 39 3-pointers, making nine — a much better performance than the 3-of-38 mark against the Aztecs the night before.
The Firebirds finally scored their first basket in the paint more than five minutes into the second half when Joshua White, who had 12 points, lofted in a layup. The Utes dominated points in the key, 80-14.
Utah played 15 players and all but one walk-on scored in the game. Next up is a far tougher test for the Utes — a matchup with No. 10 Oregon on Thursday.