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Utah Basketball Seniors Get Emotional After Big Win Over Cal

Mar 3, 2024, 12:27 AM

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SALT LAKE CITY – The Runnin’ Utes are done playing in the Huntsman Center for the 2023-24 season and it came with a lot of emotion for Utah’s seniors.

Gabe Madsen, Ben Carlson, Cole Bajema and Branden Carlson were all honored pregame with their families for their contributions to a Utah basketball program that is continuing to re-find its footing slowing but surely.

All four players expressed what it has meant to them to don the Drum and Feather and work toward rebuilding a once very proud basketball program.

Utah Legend Branden Carlson Gets Emotional After Utah Win

Senior Night hit particularly hard for big man Branden Carlson who already walked the year before when he explored potentially going to the NBA.

By now we all know Carlson ultimately decided to come back for a fifth and final year with the Utes and oh what a year it has been.

Carlson broke the Utah school record for career blocks. He also set an incredible record in the Pac-12 Conference.

Speaking on just Saturday night against Cal, Carlson left one last impression on the Huntsman crowd (as if they needed another reason to love him more) putting up 30 points and pulling down 10 rebounds for a double-double while adding four more blocks to his record.

“It feels good,” Carlson said before choking up over the finality of the moment. “I’m going to get emotional. Last game in the Huntsman Center…I love this program and my time here…just being able to get another win with this team and knowing we still have more to go and accomplish is all I can ask for. I’m so thankful for the fans and coaches- everyone who has been a part of this journey…it’s just going to be a tough adjustment leaving here after this year. I did so good all day not crying. It feels good having a good game for your last time in the Huntsman Center.”

Pretty strong stuff from a Utah legend who could have easily bailed for greener pastures but chose the tougher road to help a program and place he loves.

Cole Bajema Understands Finality Of Senior Night At Utah

Cole Bajema, like Carlson does not have any more eligibility left and understands the emotions of knowing his college journey is over despite spending only one season at Utah.

Bajema also had a moment to shine for one last time in college in front of the Huntsman crowd on Thursday night against Stanford where he put up a team high 21 points in another big win for the Utes.

“It’s emotional,” Bajema said. “It’s kind of weird how it happened so fast. Like, I feel like it was not too long ago I was coming in as a freshman. People tell you it goes by fast- it really does. The way it is ending right now, I want to finish it strong with these guys. There is no other team I would want to do it with than these guys. We’re excited about it. It’s definitely emotional and I just want to end it strong.”

It May Be The Last Game In The Huntsman, Utah Still Has More To Play For

As a bubble team, Utah has to continue producing wins with the last three games they know for sure they have. It all starts on the road next week against the Oregon schools and then comes to a head at the Pac-12 Tournament.

Gabe Madsen, who could possibly be back for Utah next year despite walking for Senior Day, is bullish on the work the Utes have done to hopefully finish this season strong.

“We practiced pretty hard and had a meeting after to talk about what we expect of ourselves,” Madsen said. “We laid out a couple of bullet points about our identity and I think we stuck to that this week and will keep building on that the next two games. We have a lot to play for.”

Ben Carlson, who also has one more year of eligibility available to him if he chooses to take it, believes the Utes became a close team that could get through the ups and downs of a season during their trip to Spain over the summer. He also believes some forever friendships were created that will surpass whatever the Utes ultimately do on the court.

 

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“I think that was huge,” Carlson said. “We just spent a ton of time with each other- that just built our chemistry. These are my best friends. I know I will be friends with them for life. I know these guys feel similar to that. This is a super, tight knit group and I think it all goes back to that week or week and a half we were in Spain on our own, figuring out things, and playing a little basketball- just having fun with each other and getting to know each other.”

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Utah Basketball Seniors Get Emotional After Big Win Over Cal