Utes return home and blowout Washington State

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By Griffin Adams and Griffin Adams

As the saying goes, ‘it’s not about how hard you can hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.’

Last Saturday, No. 12 Utah was knocked down by Arizona, but responded with a dominating, 86-64 win on Wednesday night over Washington State.

“Arizona really made me feel some type of way, I think it kind of woke us all up,” said Utah guard Brandon Taylor. “You hate to have them, but you need games like that … I thought today, we took the fight to them opposed to Arizona when they took the fight to us.”

Taylor led the way for the Runnin’ Utes with 18 points on 6-for-8 shooting, including four makes from behind the arc, and also added seven assists. Helping Taylor out was starting backcourt mate Delon Wright, who finished with 17 points and eight assists.

To the dismay of Utah fans, freshman center Jakob Poeltl did not suit up for the Utes against the Cougars and after the contest, Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said Poeltl was suffering from a sprained ankle – an injury he sustained in the game against Arizona last Saturday.

Adding insult to injury, Washington State had the opportunity to put points on the board without a second ever ticking off of the clock. During pre-game shoot-around, a Utah player was caught dunking by one of the officials which resulted in a technical foul. Washington State’s Josh Hawkinson drained both free throws to give his team the lead before the tip.

The Utes had a sluggish start and while Utah held the lead nearly the entire way, the Cougars kept the game close for a majority of the first half.

With 6:18 remaining in the opening half, the Utes held just a two-point lead 27-25, but things quickly changed. A Jordan Loveridge three pointer sparked a 19-2 Utah run to finish the half, giving the Runnin’ Utes a 46-27 halftime lead.

The turnovers proved to be a deciding factor, as Utah turned the ball over just once in the first half compared to the Cougars’ eight.

In the second half, Washington State came out with the hot hand. The Cougars hit six three-point attempts in the frame, leading to a comeback that saw them bring the game within 10 points with 10:18 remaining.

With the lead slipping away, Krystkowiak called a timeout and inserted his go-to players back in the game to make sure that was the closest Washington State would get. Following the break, Taylor splashed a shot in from behind the arc to assure his coach the game was under control.

Krystkowiak mentioned how Taylor has developed into one of his most-trusted players on his roster, especially in late-game situations.

“[Taylor’s] an absolute little warrior,” Krystkowiak said. “I, and our coaching staff, have an awful lot of faith in him. He’s built up a great deal of trust … Pound-for-pound, I think he’d kick the snot out of everyone on the basketball court.”

Leading the way for the Cougars was DaVonte Lacy with 15 points, while Hawkinson and Jordan Railey each chipped in with 12 points apiece.

The Runnin’ Utes’ next game will be on Sunday in the Huntsman Center against Washington.

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@GriffDoug