Sean Sellers led all players with 26 points in his collegiate debut for a young Cardinals team. Zavier Turner added 14 points, and Sellers' fellow freshman Jeremie Tyler finished with 12.
Matt Kamieniecki's second dunk of the night brought the Cardinals (0-1) within four at 63-59 with 7:47 to play. It was still a six-point game after a 3-pointer from Tyler with 5:48 on the clock, but Utah (1-0) broke it open late with a 16-0 run.
The Utes ignited the spurt with back-to-back steals that they turned into run-out baskets. Jordan Loveridge followed with a transition 3-pointer as Utah pulled away.
Brandon Taylor led four Utah players in double figures with 19 points, while Loveridge and Jakob Poeltl both scored 18. Cousy Award candidate Delon Wright added 13.
Ball State was plagued by foul trouble with three players fouling out and three others finishing with four fouls. Utah shot 40 free throws in the game. The Utes scored 42 points in the paint, added 26 at the foul line and shot 59 percent from the floor.
For Ball State, Sellers knocked down 8 of 13 shots from the floor and 4 of 6 from 3-point range. He scored 16 of his points in the second half. The Cardinals made 10 treys as a team but faced a 40-13 disadvantage in free throw attempts against a big Utah team.
"Sean obviously had a great night," Whitford said. "He's a good player and he has a bright future for us. We have some guys who can shoot the ball and that's a big difference for our team. Not every play has to be perfect. Sometimes a guy can make a play."
Ball State fell behind by 13 early in the first half but rallied back with Turner scoring five straight at one point. A corner 3-pointer from Sellers, plus a steal and dunk by Kamieniecki, cut the lead to four. It was a 35-30 Utah lead at the break, and the deficit hovered in the single digits for Ball State until the Utes went on their late run.
Kamieniecki scored eight points in his return after missing last season to injury. Rocco Belcaster scored five points in the most extensive action of his career.
Ball State now has a quick turnaround before its home opener Monday night. The Cardinals are set to host IU Kokomo for a 7 p.m. tipoff at Worthen Arena.
(Courtesy of BSU Athletics)