No. 12 Utah tops Huskies for sixth double-digit conference win
Utah players always try to find the best shot on every possession. That’s why the Utes lead the Pac-12 in shooting and rank second in 3-point field-goal percentage and scoring.
Dakarai Tucker scored a career-high 19 points and Brandon Taylor added 14 to lead Utah to a 77-56 victory over Washington on Sunday.
"We do a great job as a team at not forcing shots a lot," Taylor said. "We’re very patient offensively. We may get sped up and turn the ball over sometimes but, for the most part, we’ve done a good job and we’ve grown so much in having a great pace offensively and getting what we call `five shots’"
Tucker and Taylor combined to make eight 3-pointers, giving No. 12 Utah (16-3, 6-1 Pac-12) its 15th straight home victory dating to last season. All six of the Utes’ Pac-12 conference wins have come by double-digit margins.
Strong shooting helped Utah lead from the start in this latest blowout win. The Utes shot 28 for 52 (54 percent) from the field, including 11 for 18 (61 percent) on 3-pointers.
"It really starts with our guys playing together and trusting each other," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "When we have somebody that forces the issue and forces a shot, it really sticks out like a sore thumb on our team. It’s just not the way that we play."
Andrew Andrews had 19 points to lead Washington. Robert Upshaw chipped in 13 points, nine rebounds and five blocks for the Huskies (14-5, 3-4) who saw their three-game winning streak end.
"They played good defense," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. "When you’re playing against them on the offensive end, you just have very, very little room for error. You can’t make a mistake because they have multiple shooters out there with that basketball the entire time."
Utah made baskets on its first four possessions to open the game — highlighted by a 3-pointer from Jordan Loveridge that gave him 1,000 points for his career at Utah. It helped his team take a 10-2 lead.
Delon Wright stole the ball and fed Tucker for a layup to give the Utes their first double-digit lead at 18-7. Utah eventually went up 29-14 on the strength of back-to-back 3-pointers from Tucker and Loveridge.
Washington climbed back into the game behind strong perimeter shooting from Andrews. He made all four 3-pointers he attempted in the first half. The final one capped a 12-2 run that helped the Huskies cut Utah’s lead to 31-26.
The Utes scored baskets on their next three possessions — including back-to-back layups from Jakob Poeltl — to halt the run and push their lead back to nine.
The Huskies cut the deficit to 43-38 early in the second half on three consecutive baskets — capped by a jumper by Upshaw. That’s as close as it got before Utah pulled away from the perimeter.
Starting with a jumper from Loveridge, the Utes went on a 23-3 run to put the game out of reach. Utah scored on seven straight possessions during the run — highlighted by three straight Tucker 3-pointers — and took a 66-41 lead with 9:43 remaining.
Washington missed eight of nine shots in that decisive stretch. For Utah, it emphasized that, once again, strong defense laid the foundation for explosive offense.
"Basketball is a little bit unique because it’s always flowing," Krystkowiak said. "Most times, people think you gain confidence from offense. But this is an example where we’re gaining some confidence knowing we can defend some people and it makes the game fun at the other end."
Utah: Jakob Poeltl returned to the starting lineup after missing a game with a sprained ankle. Poeltl finished with six points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes. … The Utes assisted on 12 of 14 baskets in the first half. … Utah has won all five Pac-12 home games by an average margin of 24.8 points per contest.
Washington: Before facing Utah, the Huskies had won all five games where they trailed at halftime this season. Three of those victories came on the road. … Huskies center Robert Upshaw leads the nation in blocked shots (4.4 per game). Washington ranks sixth nationally in the category with 6.7 blocks per contest.
Jordan Loveridge became the 37th player in Utah history to score at least 1,000 career points. The most recent Ute player to do it was forward Jason Washburn in the 2012-13 season.
"It really is awesome," Krystkowiak said. "I don’t know how many he’s going to end up with, but it’s neat. Any time you can score 1,000 points, it says a lot about you. Jordan continues to do a good job."