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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Basketball: Second-half surge sends Utah through, rematch with Oregon looms



Coming into the Pac-12 tournament, everyone knew Utah guard Delon Wright was going to produce. He’s a national Player of the Year candidate and a first team All-American, according to a number of media outlets.

So it was no surprise when Wright got his against Stanford in the quarterfinals on Thursday night, registering a stat line of 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists, but there was another hero for the Utes, and that was West Jordan native Jordan Loveridge.

Loveridge’s complete game of 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists, including a 7-for-10 effort from the field, was the spark the No. 17 Runnin’ Utes needed to pull away from the Cardinal for the 80-56 win in the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Vegas.

The team as a whole caught fire from three-point range, shooting an impressive 63.2 percent from behind the arc, making 12 three-pointers. Additionally, the Utes had a clear advantage on the boards, something they’ve been working on all season, out-rebounding Stanford 37-24, including 29-4 in the second half.

According to Loveridge, the offensive outburst was a product of Utah’s defense.

“I think the biggest thing that helped our offense was our defense,” he said. “It’s a lot easier when you’re getting stops and you’re pushing it and you’re sharing the ball.”

The game started with an early surprise, as freshman Brekkott Chapman got the nod to start over regular starter Chris Reyes. Krystkowiak has mentioned time and time again this season that he evaluates his starting lineup each week, and Krystkowiak felt Chapman gave his team the best chance in this game.

And while it was the freshman who registered the first points for Utah, it was a rough start to the contest for the Utes. Thanks to some quick fouls that caused Jakob Poeltl to sit early and cold shooting from the rest of the Utes, Stanford jumped out to a quick lead.

“Didn’t exactly start off the first half the way we needed to,” Krystkowiak said. “I thought maybe we were going through the motions a little bit.”

But led by eight points from Jordan Loveridge in just over a minute, Utah went on a 14-2 run to take the lead from the Cardinal.

“My teammates made the plays, and I made some shots,” Loveridge said of his eight-point run.

Stanford center Stefan Nastic had a hot night against Washington, to the tune of 21 points, and continued that play against the Utes. The big man registered 11 points down low, and the Utah frontcourt was struggling to keep him from putting the ball in the basket.

Additionally, Chasson Randle found a groove toward the end of the half, despite starting the game on a sour note, hitting two shots from deep to give Stanford the edge.When the teams headed to the locker rooms, Stanford carried the 39-34 lead.

But it was a definitely a tale of two halves, as it was all Utah to close the game.

After sitting a majority of the first half due to fouls, Poeltl came out of the gate hot in the second half, scoring two quick buckets to cut Stanford’s lead. After a Delon Wright three, the Utah faithful rose to their feet as Utah took back the lead 42-41 with 15:57 to go in the game.

“[Jakob] got out and got early layups,” Krystkowiak said. “He put some heat on whoever was back on defense.”

With the lead, but game still in reach for the Cardinal, Delon Wright decided to take over. Following a Ute miss, Wright navigated his way through the point, exploded to the rock, grabbed it in the air and slammed it home for the putback dunk. The dunk immediately made the rounds on Twitter, as the MGM exploded in cheers.

Stanford made some brief runs in the second half, courtesy of Randle, but the Cardinal best player made a mistake with 9:04 to go. After a steal by Delon Wright, Poeltl ran the length of the court and had a breakaway dunk in his sights, but Randle ran up behind him and intentionally fouled him.

After talking it over, the officials decided it was a flagrant-one foul, as fans were begging for the referees to throw him out.

Randle ultimately remained in the game, but the Utah tear continued. The Utes outscored Stanford 46-17 in the second half.

The Utes will now get ready for a Friday night semifinal matchup against two-seed Oregon, who upset Utah in Eugene just a few weeks ago. Utah is looking forward to the revenge game.

“You’re always excited to play, rematch a team that beat you,” Wright said. “We only got to play them one time [this season], so this is our rematch.”

Tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. PST.

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