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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Men’s hoops: Utes overcome slow start, win in Pullman 67-59

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]It was a scary game for No. 13 Utah.

Nothing was going right for the Utes — shots weren’t falling, they couldn’t stop DaVonte Lacy and they were on serious upset alert in Pullman.


“It was really, really ugly,” Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said in a postgame interview with ESPN700. “We made a bunch of mistakes. Offensively, we were so sluggish, the ball didn’t move.”

But when things looked south, Krystkowiak went back to his veteran players, using three-pointers from Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor down the stretch to come back from an eight-point second-half deficit to give Utah (23-6, 13-4 Pac-12) a 67-59 win over the Cougars.

“Those kids stepped up and made some big plays when we needed to have some gamers,” Krystkowiak said on the show.

The victory keeps the Utes’ hopes alive of obtaining the No. 2 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament, and saves them from having a bad loss on its NCAA Tournament resume.

While it was Loveridge and Taylor who made some big shots late, it was Wright who kept Utah in the game the first three-quarters of the game.

For moments of this game Wright looked unstoppable. The Player of the Year candidate registered a stat line of 18 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, including a perfect 8-for-8 effort from the charity stripe.

As a team, the Utes shot a shade over 40 percent from the field, and needed an 8-for-12 shooting clip from downtown in the second half to rescue them down the stretch.

The first half was a rough one for the Utes, especially at the beginning. Thanks to the big man duo of Josh Hawkinson and Jordan Railey, Washington State got off to a quick 11-4 run to start the game.

Utah’s offense struggled to find a rhythm and the Cougar run lasted just over eight minutes.

“Our energy was down a bit for the start of the game and they jumped out on us,” Loveridge said on the show.

But the Utes got right back in it behind the leadership of Wright. With the Utes down two points late in the half, Wright elevated his game to another level, scoring six straight points. But it wasn’t just that he scored the points, it was the way he did it.

Starting with the ball at the top of the key, Wright made a play that confirmed the chatter of him being an NBA talent. After sizing up his defender, Wright dribbled to the right where another Cougar defender met him. Instead of being forced into a double-team, Wright split the defenders, only to meet another Washington State wall.

But that was no problem for Wright, as he casually euro-stepped past the defender, switched hands and spun the ball of the glass in for two.

The rest of the half didn’t produce much action, and it was all knotted up at 23 heading into the locker rooms.

Although they had a halftime to hash things out, it got even worse for the Runnin’ Utes in the second half. For the first 15 minutes of the slate, Utah was playing catch-up as it couldn’t keep up with the improved play of the Cougars.

But with just about seven minutes remaining in the game, the Utes caught fire. Taylor and Loveridge traded off buckets each possession and the two combined for 13 straight points to give Utah a 55-52 with 2:49 to go.

That lead would stay for good, as Wright and Taylor each drained a pair of free throws in the final seconds to seal the victory, shrinking the magic number to one for clinching the two-seed in the Pac-12 Tournament.

The Utes will take a charter plane to Seattle late Thursday night and will conclude their regular season Saturday afternoon against Washington.

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