Runnin’ Utes shock the Shockers

Delon block

Sometimes words cannot appropriately describe a situation and such was the case late Wednesday night in Salt Lake City.
With 14,319 screaming Utah fans cheering on their team, Utah used a nifty runner in the lane from point guard Brandon Taylor and some stingy defense on the other end to hold on to late-night overtime upset over No. 8 Wichita State 69-68, ending the Shockers 35-regular season game winning streak.
“That was a grinder,” Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said following the game. “I really respect what [Wichita State] is doing … I have tremendous respect for what they do and rather than think about ending anything of theirs, I’d rather think about beginning something for us.”
Leading the way for the Runnin’ Utes was Taylor, who finished the game with 17 points to go along with his four assists, while freshman center Jakob Poeltl registered a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds to go with his three blocks.
Utah also got productive play from its bench as both Dakarai Tucker and Brekkott Chapman saw significant minutes. Tucker finished with 13 points and some timely three pointers while Chapman contributed eight points and five rebounds.
The game could not have started better for the visiting Shockers, reeling off a 10-0 run to put Utah in the early double-digit deficit. However, after a Utah timeout, the Runnin’ Utes made the necessary adjustments to respond with a 7-0 run of their own to pull within three early in the half.
There was a lot of back-and-forth play the remainder of the half, but it was the Shockers who went into the locker rooms with the halftime lead 33-29.
In the second half, Utah was a team on a mission. While the statistics in each half were nearly identical for the Utes, the crowd started to wear off on the players as they began to play with a deeper desire and more confidence. From Dallin Bachynski grabbing offensive board after offensive board to Taylor hustling for the loose ball, Utah was showing it wanted to win this game.
With 5:19 left in the game, the game was Utah’s for the taking. The Runnin’ Utes held an 11-point lead and essentially had the game in their back pocket before the improbable began to happen.
Utah began to get complacent on offense as it had the late edge, but Wichita State coach Greg Marshall and his Shockers did not want their streak to end quite yet. After a few costly turnovers and some big three-pointers from Fred Van Vleet, Wichita State found itself with a 60-58 lead with just 37 seconds remaining on the clock.
“I knew they weren’t going to go away,” Taylor said. “They aren’t No. 8 for nothing. It was incredible how that team kept coming back after we kept going on runs and runs. They kept coming and that’s a good team.”
With the Utes’ offense struggling throughout the night, fans were on the edge of their seats waiting to see what Krystkowiak drew up. With the clock at 19 seconds, Tucker took the ball from the right wing and drove into the paint where he was fouled and put on the line. Luckily for Utah, Tucker had been preparing for this moment.
“I was just thinking all about fundamentals, stay focused and knock them down,” Tucker said. “Brandon and I were shooting free throws this morning, that’s crazy.”
After Tucker’s free throws tied the game up at 60 apiece, Utah used a smart foul and some solid defense from Taylor to send the game into overtime.
In the extra session, things played out very similarly to the rest of the game. With some more back-and-forth play, the lead changed four times until finally, point guard Delon Wright gave Utah the lead with 14 seconds left on the clock with a pretty floater in the lane.
While the Huntsman Center was rocking, there was still plenty of time left on the clock for Wichita State to draw up some sort of play to try and go home to Kansas with its streak still in tact. But after a missed shot from Van Vleet, forward Chris Reyes grabbed the defensive rebound before getting fouled to try and seal the game.
However, Reyes missed his one-and-one free throw, holding the door open for the Shockers for a second longer. Or maybe even less thanks to Poeltl sneaking into the lane and grabbing the offensive board. The center was immediately fouled, giving the Utes another chance to seal the victory, but Poeltl missed both free throws.
In the end, the inevitable was just delayed as Wichita State’s desperation heave was no good, finally giving Utah the victory.
“I was more hyped than nervous,” Taylor said when the final shot went up. “I was just like, ‘they can’t get this shot, at all.’”
The Shockers were led by star guard Ron Baker, who finished with 15 points while Tekele Cotton and Van Vleet finished with 14 and 13 respectively.
Utah will next compete when it travels down south to take on in-state rival BYU in Provo on Dec. 10.
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