SALT LAKE CITY -- Sedrick Barefield is embracing a sixth man role with Utah and finding success.
Barefield came off the bench for the second straight game and responded with 15 points and six assists to lead the Utes to a 76-62 victory over Northern Arizona on Friday night. The senior guard started Utah's first nine games before a lineup shakeup put him with the second unit against Florida A&M on Monday and again against the Lumberjacks four days later.
He took the change in stride and looked at it as a chance to get a feel for what he needed to do to make an immediate impact offensively and defensively once he checked into the game.
"When you're on the bench, you can definitely watch the game from a tactical standpoint to see how they're setting up," Barefield said. "It gives you an advantage coming into the game."
Riley Battin added 13 points and Timmy Allen chipped in 12 for the Utes. Utah (6-5) shot 49 percent from the field and scored 16 points off 10 Northern Arizona turnovers on its way to winning back-to-back games for the first time this season.
Barefield made some key baskets that helped Utah finally put away Northern Arizona early in the second half.
Early Utah turnovers helped give Northern Arizona a shot of momentum. The Utes coughed up the ball four times in the first four minutes and the Lumberjacks jumped out to an 8-4 lead on a pair of jumpers from Carlos Hines.
Northern Arizona traded baskets with Utah for a while and took its last lead at 19-18 on a layup from DeBisschop. The Utes gradually pulled away after surging ahead 25-19 on a 7-0 run capped by Barefield's 3-pointer.
The Lumberjacks briefly trimmed the deficit to 28-25 on a pair of free throws from Cameron Shelton. Battin answered with a layup on the other end before Parker Van Dyke buried a 3 with 1.7 seconds left in the half to give the Utes a 38-30 lead at the break.
Utah shot 60 percent from the field in the first half and cashed in on six NAU turnovers scoring 10 points the other way.
"Offensively, we're starting to figure some things out," Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak said "We kind of took steps back tonight in defensive transition (in the first half). ... just too much complacency in switching gears."
Van Dyke and Battin drilled back-to-back 3s early in the second half to spark a 15-4 run for the Utes. Donnie Tillman capped it off with a dunk, giving Utah a 55-36 lead with 13:34 left.
Northern Arizona coach Jack Murphy said the run was a learning moment for his team heading into Big Sky Conference play.
"I was not going to bail them out," Murphy said. "They had to get down there and grind and defend and get through it as a unit."
The Utes finished the game with 18 assists on 29 baskets. Extra passes proved to be the difference maker propelling the Utah offense at critical junctures late in the first half and early in the second half.
"When everyone touches it, they feel like they're doing something and that's just the type of style we need to have," Battin said.
POUNDING THE PAINT
Utah outscored Northern Arizona 44-28 in the paint. The Utes went 19-of-28 on layups and dunks, which was four shy of matching the total field goals for the Lumberjacks. Their willingness to go to the basket also helped the team shake off some early struggles to hit 3-pointers.
"We understand the value of getting two feet in the paint and making a play from there," Barefield said.
"It was good for us."
Utah set a season-low with just seven turnovers. Northern Arizona matched its season-low with 10 turnovers. The Utes claimed a 16-2 advantage on points off turnovers.
THE BIG PICTURE:
Northern Arizona: The Lumberjacks stayed competitive until halftime against a more talented Pac-12 team. They ultimately were undone by an inability to defend around the basket. Utah camped out in the paint and scored layups virtually at will as the game progressed.
Utah: Another sluggish start kept the Utes from pulling away until the second half. Poor outside shooting and a failure to attack the glass were the primary culprits behind it. The Utes shot just 2 of 10 from the perimeter before halftime and allowed the Lumberjacks to crash the boards and grab offensive rebounds.
Northern Arizona hosts Montana on December 29th in its Big Sky opener.
Utah hosts Nevada on December 29th to close out non-conference play.
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