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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 Basketball: Runnin’ Utes outlast No. 9 Arizona in intense Pac-12 battle, 70-64

Senior point guard Brandon Taylor came through in the clutch for the Runnin’ Utes, hitting a late game three-pointer after crossing over Arizona’s Gabe York, as well as a clutch free throw, to help Utah beat Arizona 70-64 in the Huntsman Center. This is Utah’s first win against Arizona since joining the Pac-12.

Not too long ago, Taylor, who finished the game with a team-high 19 points, didn’t have much faith in himself, but he knew his team needed him to step up Saturday.

“My confidence was shot, and I wasn’t believing in myself,” Taylor said. “I took to heart that my team needs me. I was poised in my mind and the good players in those situations, that’s where you get comfortable. You don’t get rattled — you get comfortable.”

The game was close for the majority of the second half as the lead continued to change hands, but head coach Larry Krystkowiak was ecstatic that his team was able to pull through, especially with the quick turnaround from Thursday night’s game.

“Our guys did a tremendous job of locking in,” Krystkowiak said. “It’s not easy on the fly to play a game of this magnitude with that short of rest.”

Utah finished shooting 49.2 percent from the floor and 29.2 percent from three-point range and racked up eight turnovers. Four players finished scoring in double-digits for Utah, led by Taylor’s 19 to go with his five steals. Poeltl had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Lorenzo Bonam and Jordan Loveridge followed with 11 and 10, respectively.

Before the game, Krystkowiak said the Utes needed to do a better job of rebounding, and although the Utes didn’t do very well at this at the beginning of the game, they soon cleaned up their play. Through the first five minutes, both teams kept even, but Utah had a slight lead, 10-9.

After scoring a quick nine points to help Utah find the early lead, Bonam was forced to the bench due to foul trouble, calling upon the bench for help.

Typical sixth man Brekkott Chapman’s confidence was apparent as he nailed a jumper to give the Utes a 31-22 lead. Arizona responded with a three-pointer, but Chris Reyes answered that with his own three-point play at the other end. Taylor stole the ball and finished the play off with a layup and put the Utes up by 11.

Utah led 40-29 at the end of the half.

After turnovers from each team, Arizona got on the board first in the second half, but Taylor drained a three to put the Utes up by 12 points. Arizona soon cut into the Utes’ lead after they committed four turnovers in the first four minutes of the frame, and Arizona went on a run.

Utah couldn’t hold on to the lead for much longer as the Wildcats took over to find the lead, 46-45. Poeltl finally ended the Utes’ scoring drought to retake the lead for the Utes, but the Wildcats immediately responded to go back up.

However, Taylor and Loveridge drained back-to-back threes and Utah led 53-49, but Arizona wouldn’t go away.

With 10 minutes left to play, Utah held the slight advantage at 53-51. Loveridge soon found the bottom of the net, and Utah led by four points again. Arizona eventually tied the game at 55 and went on to take a four-point lead.

The constant back-and-forth play of the game wore down the players, but Poeltl couldn’t let it keep him down permanently.

“I’m not going to lie — I got a little tired in the second half,” Poeltl said. “But I kept grinding and kept going to the glass and trying to create my own shot and shots for my teammates.”

Loveridge cut it to just a one-point lead after completing a three-point play. Then, Taylor spotted up behind the three-point line to put the Utes back on top 61-59, but Arizona got in front after its own three-point play at the other end.

It was coming down to the wire when senior Taylor found Poeltl down low with the nice pass to, once again, retake the lead. The lead continued to switch hands with each team trading baskets for baskets. The game was truly up for grabs.

After the Utes hustled to get a loose ball, Taylor found himself behind the three-point line after making his defender fall to the floor and made the clutch shot to put the Utes up 69-64. He eventually made a free throw from the charity stripe for the final point of the game to seal the deal.

The Utes don’t play for another week and for now are savoring the win, but they still have their sights set on the big picture — the postseason.

“We’re going to enjoy it for a couple of days and celebrate it, but hopefully some of our bigger wins still have yet to come,” Krystkowiak said. “There’s still things we haven’t accomplished in the Pac-12 tournament and NCAA tournament. Humble and hungry we will remain.”

Utah takes on Colorado next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. MST for the final home game of the regular season.

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