Washington’s two-game trip to the Rocky Mountains began with a weak offensive effort against one of the worst teams in the Pac-12.
Few teams have been able to make improvements in Utah.
The 12th-ranked Utes host the Huskies on Sunday night and figure to impose yet another strong defensive effort as they try to remain unbeaten at home.
Utah (15-3, 5-1 Pac-12) beat Washington State 86-64 on Wednesday to improve to 12-0 at home. Those wins have come by an 82.5-55.6 average, and it was the first time any of four conference opponents scored more than 55 points there.
Brandon Taylor had a game-high 18 points, while top scorer Delon Wright (15.1 points per game) added 17.
They don’t expect things to remain easy against teams chasing them.
"We’re ranked and there is definitely a target on our back now," Taylor said. "… We need to keep being humble because we still have a lot to prove ourselves even though we have had a lot of success so far."
Humility was likely easy to come by considering the game followed a 69-51 loss at Arizona on Jan. 17.
"We got back to our defensive principles," said Taylor, whose team has held opponents under 70 points in 17 straight games since a 90-72 season-opening win against Ball State.
Taylor has also stepped up his offensive game with 14.3 points on 56.3 percent shooting in the last four contests. He’d averaged 9.4 on 44.3 percent in his first 14.
"Brandon is an absolute little warrior," Utes coach Larry Krystowiak said of the 5-foot-10 junior. "Pound-for-pound, I think he’d kick the snot out of anybody on the basketball court. He brings it on a daily basis and he plays the right way."
Things might have been made a little easier for Washington State with Jakob Poeltl (ankle) out of the way down low. The 7-foot freshman missed the game but returned to practice Friday and hasn’t been ruled out against the Huskies (14-4, 3-3).
Dallin Bachynski would start again if Poeltl can’t go.
Washington has won three straight after a four-game skid, but it can’t seem to develop any offensive consistency. Thursday’s 52-50 win at Colorado was the latest example as the Huskies shot 36.0 percent – their third game of the last seven under 40.0.
Andrew Andrews hit a buzzer-beating jumper for the win after missing nine of his first 11 shots.
"I’m a perfectionist so I was still worried about all the ones I missed," Andrews said. "I just really haven’t gotten into that I made the shot, because I feel like I shot terrible today."
Top scorer Nigel Williams-Goss (14.7) had 16 points and was 7 of 18 for a second straight game, and coach Lorenzo Romar acknowledged that his team’s style might not be the most attractive at times.
"Y’all can pick whichever one you want: gutsy, gritty, resilient, that’s what our team was tonight," Romar said.
The Huskies have been successful against the Top 25 with wins over then-No. 15 Oklahoma on Dec. 20 and then-No. 13 San Diego State on Dec. 7 to give them three consecutive victories against ranked foes.
On the road, however, they’ve dropped six straight against ranked opponents dating to January 2009.
Utah won two of three meetings a season ago, all decided by single digits, with Wright averaging 20.3 points on 60.6 percent shooting.
Andrews was limited to a combined five points on 2-of-15 shooting in the Washington losses.