Men’s hoops: Runnin’ Utes dominate ASU, gear up for Arizona

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By Griffin Adams and Griffin Adams

The script was already written, all the No. 13 Runnin’ Utes had to do was execute.

Utah was knocked down after its loss to Oregon last weekend, followed by the Utes losing their top-10 ranking the next day. Then, College GameDay decided to forego coming to Salt Lake City for the ever-so-important matchup with Arizona on Saturday, opting for a lower-ranked Kansas-Texas tilt.

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“I made a comment after our practice on Tuesday that I wouldn’t want to be the team that would have to play us because you can talk about fixing things when they are broke, but it’s human nature to lose a game like we did at Oregon,” Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said.

The Utes (22-5, 12-3 Pac-12) had a chip on their shoulder and it showed when they returned to the Huntsman Center floor on Thursday night, playing with aggression from the tip in a wire-to-wire victory over Arizona State 83-41.

Player of the Year candidate Delon Wright led the way with 12 points, five rebounds, four assists, three blocks and three steals, to go with a number of highlight plays that are bound to get a shoutout on Sportscenter.

delon dunk

Overall, Utah had 11 players who scored in the game.

“I think we have great teamwork,” Wright said. “Sometimes, guys aren’t going to put up huge point totals so we all need to do our job and contribute.”

Right from the tip, these Utes were trying to prove something as they got off to a quick 8-0 run in less than four minutes of play, as Loveridge and Reyes teamed up for four points each, including Loveridge converting a four-point play after getting fouled from deep.

After Arizona State finally got on the board to make it 8-2, Wright took over and provided the Huntsman crowd with plays that simply can not be appreciated unless watched in person.

Gerry Blakes was behind the arc for the Sun Devils when he decided to pull up for the three, but Wright read him like a book, elevating with Blakes to rise up and block the shot. After the block, Brandon Taylor corralled the rebound, threw it up to a racing Wright who seemed destined to run out of bounds.

As he was falling over the line, Wright dished the ball to a cutting Dakarai Tucker who laid it in for an easy layup. This was just one of the many plays that sent the Huntsman Center into hysteria, as all of the Ute faithful were on their feet after that play.

The rest of the first half was a complete Utah domination and when the halftime buzzer sounded, the Runnin’ Utes held 41-9 lead, after holding Arizona State to a 4-for-26 shooting clip. Additionally, Utah forced 10 turnovers and blocked 10 shots.

“It was crazy,” Wright said of the blocks. “We did a nice job helping and playing defensively to get those blocks.”

Despite having a halftime to regroup, things didn’t get much better for the Sun Devils in the second half. With Krystkowiak utilizing his entire bench all the way down to crowd-favorite Austin Eastman, the Utes kept pouring it on and even improved their field goal percentage from 62 to 64 percent between the halves.

By the end of the game, the Utes had forced 14 turnovers, recorded 11 blocks and swiped eight steals, while Arizona State stumbled to its 13th loss of the season.

“It was a group effort,” Krystkowiak said. “I thought we defended the rim really well,”

Leading the way for the Sun Devils were Blakes and Willie Atwood, who both recorded 12 points.

Next up for the Utes is the anticipated rematch with Arizona on Saturday.

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@GriffDoug