Utes run past Washington in another blowout

By Griffin Adams and Griffin Adams

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Whenever Utah junior Dakarai Tucker steps onto the floor, he has one goal in mind.

“I just focus on fundamentals and every shot I shoot is a good shot,” Tucker said. “…I try to be an energizer player when I step on the floor.”

Tucker certainly brought some energy on Sunday evening, scoring 19 points on 7-for-8 shooting, including 4-for-5 from behind the arc, in No. 12 Utah’s 77-56 win over Washington. Also contributing to the win was Brandon Taylor, who registered 14 points and a number of timely three-pointers, and Chris Reyes, who broke double-digits for just the second time this season with 11 points.

When asked about Tucker’s scoring outburst, Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak praised the wing man.

“It’s fantastic,” he said. “… I’m always happy for our guys when they have a game like that. Dakarai works really hard, so they’re easy guys to cheer for. Dakarai’s a grinder and I think we know that’s one of his skills of shooting it and it’s fun to see him get on a little bit of a roll like that.”

Early in the first half, the blowout seemed inevitable when the Utes used a fluid offense and stingy defense to jump out to a 18-7 lead early on. That deficit grew larger by the 8:29 mark, as a Jordan Loveridge three-point make pushed Utah’s lead to 29-14.

But the Huskies didn’t go away. After the Loveridge bucket, Washington used the remainder of the half to cut the lead down to as low as five with just under five minutes remaining until halftime. Husky guard Andrew Andrews was single handedly keeping his team in the game, scoring 14 points on 4-of-4 shooting from deep in the first frame.

While the Utes were trying to build back up the double-digit lead by halftime, it was Andrews who scored the final points of the half to bring Washington within seven points heading into the locker room, 37-30.

The second half saw a similar storyline, atleast to start. After back-to-back buckets by center Jakob Poeltl, the Huskies responded with three consecutive baskets of their own to bring the game back to within five points.

From that point on, it was all Utah. Thanks to the hot shooting from Tucker and Taylor, the Utes went on a 17-1 run to take a 60-39 lead with 11:40 remaining in the second half.

“That’s at its finest – when you’re getting stops and hitting three’s, it adds up pretty quick in a tight game,” Krystkowiak said.

It was on the tail end of that run where Tucker provided one of the game’s highlight plays. Point guard Isaiah Wright dribbled into the lane and draw in a defender before kicking to the hot-hand. Once Tucker caught the ball, he rose and drained the three-point shot, but not after being fouled on the shot.

“Nothing really changed about tonight. I just started making shots,” Tucker said of his hot shooting.

After a media timeout, Tucker stepped up to the charity stripe and sank the free throw to convert the four-point play.

For the remainder of the game, there was a lot of back-and-forth play that saw both teams make miniature runs. In the end, that 17-1 run ended up being the deciding factor as a 21-point deficit was still standing when the final buzzer sounded.

Washington was led by Andrews, who finished with 22 points, and Robert Upshaw, who registered 13 points, nine rebounds and five blocks. Upshaw proved to be an annoyance for Utah down low as his seven-foot frame altered many more shots than just the five he blocked.

The Utes will now take their act on the road this week when they travel to UCLA on Thursday.

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@GriffDoug