Utah 76, Boise St. 55
SALT LAKE CITY (AP)
It was almost as if Rick Majerus was back in the Huntsman Center and Utah was re-living its glory days.
''There was no doubt that Coach was in the building. Our guys played really inspired and as hard as they could on every possession,'' said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak.
Krystkowiak talked to the players about Majerus each day since his passing. He became friends with the Utes icon when he coached with the NBA's Bucks in Milwaukee, where Majerus coached at Marquette.
''Coach is the first person you think of when you think of Utah basketball. He is Utah. I have so much respect for him and it's a motivator for me to coach like him. I'd like to be one-tenth the coach he was,'' Krystkowiak said.
After struggling the past few seasons, Utah (6-2) made this contest feel more like the 1990s when Majerus roamed the Huntsman Center sidelines and the Utes rarely lost at home.
Jason Washburn had 13 points and Jordan Loveridge contributed 11 as the two players combined to make 11-of-14 shots. The Utes' 68 percent accuracy from the field was the best since a 71 percent mark against Air Force in 2007.
''Coach Majerus means so much to this place,'' Washburn said. ''He was right there with us. I felt like he was on the bench tonight.''
Derrick Marks had 18 points and Mikey Thompson added 16, but Boise State (6-2) couldn't recover from a slow start and saw its three-game win streak snapped.
Numerous video tributes of the glory days and a patch on Ute uniforms memorialized Majerus, who coached Utah from 1989 to 2004 and reached the NCAA National Championship game in 1998.
The coaching staff all wore sweaters in the memory of Majerus and they placed an empty chair courtside draped with one of his actual trademark cream sweaters.
''It was a special night for us. He's probably proud we played like his teams did. We fought like heck every time down and we took Utah shots - open shots,'' Krystkowiak said.
The memorial immediately sparked the Utes to a blistering start as they connected on nine of their first 10 attempts. Aaron Dotson's 3-pointer lifted Utah to a 27-8 midway lead through the first half. The Utes were up 41-25 after shooting 75 percent in the first half.
Coming in, the Broncos were the hot team with three straight wins and they dominated Utah last year in Boise, 80-59. But the Utes' offense emphasized movement and the extra pass on its way to 20 assists on 27 baskets.
The efficiency kept Boise State from any transition baskets and the Utes continually pressured the Broncos off the 3-point line. Utah out-rebounded the Broncos 31-18.
''We took that defensive intensity and the rim on the other end opened up. We were really good offensively and moved the ball so well,'' Krystkowiak said.
The Utes have now matched their win total from their forgettable 6-25 record last season. The Utes also posted their largest margin of victory against a Division I opponent since beating Southern 88-48 in 2009.
Majerus, who was the Wooden National Coach of the Year in 1998, coached the Utes to 11 NCAA Tournaments and a record of 323-95. Utah won 54 straight home games from 1997 to 2000 and the Utes looked similarly invincible in this one.
''Coach is a legend here,'' said Glen Dean, who had eight points, nine rebounds and six assists. ''Before the game we talked about him again. It sparked all of us and we all felt some type of energy that came in. We just rode it and got rolling right away.''