Utah didn’t let last weekend’s loss that cost it a chance to win the Pac-12 title carry into the first stop on a season-ending trip against two of the lesser teams in the league.
That’s because the 13th-ranked Utes still have something to play for, and they’ll try to wrap up the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament when they face Washington on Saturday.
Utah (23-6, 13-4) looked like it was on its way to defeating then-No. 7 Arizona last Saturday and moving into a tie with the Wildcats for first place, but it couldn’t hold on after leading by six with eight minutes remaining.
The 63-57 loss gave Arizona at least a share of the Pac-12 championship, and it wrapped up the title with a 99-60 rout of California on Thursday night. The Utes also played Thursday, but their game was a lot closer.
They trailed Washington State by seven in the second half before closing on a 26-11 run to come away with a 67-59 win that put them one-half game up on Oregon for the No. 2 seed. The Ducks beat Utah 69-58 on Feb. 22, so the Utes need to beat Washington (15-14, 4-13) to finish in second place.
”It was ugly but I’ll take it,” coach Larry Krystkowiak said after Thursday’s comeback. ”It was a grinder. … We didn’t play offense until the last 10 minutes. We’ll take the W.”
Delon Wright led the way with 18 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, while Jordan Loveridge hit three 3-pointers and scored 16. Utah held a 37-26 rebounding advantage but was outscored 26-16 in the paint.
”We put shooters on the floor,” Krystkowiak said. ”But we’re not going to reach our goals without a better interior performance.”
The Utes won the battle inside in the first meeting with the Huskies, outscoring them 34-26 in the paint in a 77-56 win Jan. 25. Utah could repeat that performance with Washington possibly being down two forwards.
The Huskies played without Shawn Kemp Jr. and Donaven Dorsey on Thursday and were held to their lowest point total in over eight years in a 64-47 loss to Colorado. Washington shot 30.5 percent after making 29.7 percent in last Saturday’s 70-55 loss at Southern California.
”We just ran out of bodies,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. ”… We just couldn’t consistently put the ball in the basket, even when we made our runs.”
Utah has won three in a row in the series since losing 59-57 in its previous visit to Seattle last Jan. 8.
Washington enters this meeting with losses in three straight and 10 of 11, a stretch that started with January’s matchup in Utah. Thursday’s defeat was the Huskies’ fifth in a row at home, their longest such streak since a seven-game slide Jan. 8-Feb. 26, 2000.
Junior Dakarai Tucker had a career-high 19 points for Utah in the first meeting, while Andrew Andrews scored 22 for Washington. Andrews had 19 in last year’s visit from the Utes, who were led by Wright’s career-high 27 points.