Runnin’ Utes Dominate Sun Devils, Win Big on Senior Day

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U of U sophomore forward, Mikael Jantunen (#20), high-fives teammate, Alfonso Plummer (#25), during the game vs. the USC Trojans on Feb. 27th, 2021 at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on campus. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ethan Pearce, Sports Writer

 

The University of Utah men’s basketball team nabbed a blowout victory over the Arizona State Sun Devils on Saturday afternoon, getting ready for the Pac-12 Tournament in style. This win will be huge for confidence heading into postseason basketball as Utah looks to close out this wild ride of a season.

First Half

The first few minutes of the game were somewhat sloppy on both sides, and with the whistle on a quick trigger, the game became pretty sluggish. The Utes and Sun Devils went back and forth, neither team gaining much momentum. Utah led 20-16 with about nine minutes left in the first half. Utah found its offense by continually getting to the rim. Arizona State offered little resistance inside, so the Utes took advantage with a series of layups. ASU’s coach, Bobby Hurley, was not happy and took multiple timeouts to get his team back on track. Utah continued to take it inside, and that was enough to give them a 10 point lead, 32-22, with 3:31 to play until halftime. Riley Battin beat the buzzer from three to put Utah up 13, 41-28, as they headed into the halftime locker room. The keys to this lead included punishing ASU inside, playing solid defense in the paint, and bottling up Remy Martin, who was scoreless at halftime. Martin usually averages over 20 points for the Sun Devils. Mikael Jantunen led Utah with 13 points at the break.

Second Half

The Utes continued to pour it on in the second half, taking a 20 point lead, 49-29, just three minutes in. Arizona State could do nothing to stop Utah in the paint. Things began to get pretty chippy with multiple technical fouls called. Arizona State was getting frustrated as their deficit grew. After a few lengthy reviews, it was pretty clear by their body language that ASU had given up. Utah kept taking it inside and it kept working. The lead surpassed 30, still with 11 minutes to go. Coach Larry Krystkowiak was able to go to his deep bench for the last stretch of this one. Some late highlights included Lahat Thioune getting a couple of buckets to fall via some nice post play, Ian Martinez keeping the intensity up with some inspired defense and Pelle Larsson flying in out of nowhere for a show-stopping block. Despite the blowout victory, Utah kept the intensity up until the end and seemed to revel in what became their highest-scoring night of the season. Eventually, mercifully, the final buzzer sounded on a 98-59 victory – a near-40 point victory over a bitter rival on senior day.

Takeaways

Arizona State was shorthanded today, missing the services of Josh Christopher and Marcus Bagley, both NBA draft prospects. Martin finished with just eight points, which left the rest of the Sun Devils to pick up the slack. ASU just didn’t have enough offensive firepower to keep pace with the hot shooting of the Utes, and their defense didn’t do them any favors either.

“I thought we shared the ball really well, we were dialed in defensively, had a rebound advantage, made every one of our free throws,” Krystkowiak said. “I’m not sure we could have scripted it any better.”

Senior Day

For senior day, Utah had a special ceremony postgame for Brooks King and Alfonso Plummer, as well as Donny Daniels, longtime director of player development, who is retiring after the season. King and Plummer will have the opportunity to return next season if they choose, due to the NCAA’s decision to freeze the eligibility clock due to the pandemic.

“I’ve always enjoyed my time here. The people are outstanding,” Daniels said. “I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Salt Lake City, and the people of Salt Lake City… I’ve had the best seat in the house. You can’t beat that.”

Up Next

Utah will play in the Pac-12 Tournament next week beginning on Wednesday, March 10. They will see the Washington Huskies in the first round. They each won one matchup during the regular season.

 

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