Tucker steps up, takes the win for Runnin’ Utes in grueling matchup with Beavers

By Griffin Adams and Griffin Adams

Most teams experience a game like this at least once throughout a season – a grind-it-out, defensive matchup where teams need to dig deep to get through the gutcheck.

That’s exactly what No. 9 Utah (21-4, 11-2 Pac-12) had to do when it escaped Corvallis with a low-scoring win over Oregon State (16-10, 7-7), 47-37. The loss marked the first for the Beavers on their home floor this season.

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“You can see why this team does such a good job at protecting its home court,” said Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak on a postgame show with ESPN700 following the win. “It wasn’t pretty, but we just kept grinding.”

The Runnin’ Utes were led by non-starter Dakarai Tucker with 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting, including a number of timely threes.Tucker provided a huge spark off the bench, as the entire starting lineup failed to individually score in double digits.

Helping Tucker along the way was Delon Wright, who nearly registered a double-double with nine points, nine rebounds and five assists.

Leading up to the game, much was to be made about Oregon State’s home-court advantage and the heralded zone defense, and the Utes saw that in action right off of the bat. The Beavers immediately came out in a zone in the first half, clearly disrupting the flow of the Utah offense.

“We struggled with that zone, finding open shots,” Tucker said on the show.

It was a two-way street, however, with the Utes playing their typical in-your-face defense that they’ve hung their hats on all season long, as the first slate was full of missed shots and turnovers. Heading into the locker rooms, it was just a 16-14 game in Utah’s favor.

Krystkowiak said that heading into halftime, he felt a sense of deja vu, referencing back to when the Utes played San Diego State in non-conference play. In that game, Utah was leading at the half 18-17 but ended up losing the game, and Krystkowiak was hoping that his team learned from that early-season matchup.

“I huddled everybody up and I said, ‘Guys, this is why we played at San Diego State, this is why we played at Kansas, this is why we were at BYU,’” Krystkowiak said on the show.

The second half saw much of the same play as the first – turnovers and missed shots – but then Tucker checked into the game.

With just under 14 minutes to go in the contest, Tucker went into takeover-mode, driving the lane for the and-one and shortly after hitting a three-pointer. Under a minute later, the Calif. native knocked down another one from deep.

The triple marked a personal eight-point run for Tucker, and in a span of minutes, he became Utah’s leading scorer. The guard-forward combo even surprised himself a bit.

“It’s fun,” Tucker said on the show.. “I never thought I’d be in this position.”

Tucker’s play during that span put Utah in control of the game, as the closest the Beavers would get the rest of the game was within six points. Brandon Taylor and Jordan Loveridge finished them off with a few late three-point makes, sealing the victory and improving Utah’s record to 21-4 on the year.

Oregon State was led by Malcolm Duvivier with 12 points, while Gary Payton II registered just six points on 3-for-7 shooting.

Utah will have a few days of a rest before going to Eugene to take on Oregon.

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@GriffDoug