Trailing by as many as 14 points in the first half, Utah worked its way back to make it a competitive game with Oregon State and ultimately got the 59-53 win on Sunday night.
Head coach Larry Krystkowiak was relieved his team was able to find a win at home after dropping its last contest in the Huntsman Center.
“It wasn’t pretty,” Krystkowiak said. “Really proud of our guys’ effort to be able to battle and stay in the game. Defensively I thought we were really solid in the second half, and it was a correlation with us kind of taking matters into our own hands.”
With a tied game at 52, OSU’s Jarmal Reid was upset about a no-call and his emotions got the best of him. He tripped one of the referees while getting up, was given a flagrant-2 foul and ejected from the game.
Dakarai Tucker, who finished with eight points, had never seen anything like that and thinks it goes to show how heated things can get.
“You just get anxious,” Tucker said. “We can’t lose our composure like they did when they messed with the ref.”
This completely shifted the momentum in favor of the Utes, who went on to make seven free throws to secure the win.
Jakob Poeltl improved his play from the past few games and finished with 15 points and seven rebounds. He was also able to hit a few free throws down the stretch.
“Felt great,” Poeltl said. “It was a grind the whole game. Felt like we didn’t play with enough energy in the first half and get the stops that we needed. In the second half we did a good job on defense and we got running. Finally the shots went in for us, and that’s how you get rolling.”
Utah was 41.9 percent from the floor and 23.8 percent from three-point range. Despite somewhat sloppy play in the first half, the Utes finished with just 11 turnovers and were only whistled for 10 fouls.
After some failed attempts to block out and a four minute-scoring drought, the Utes found themselves down by nine points early in the game.
But as Utah started to hit its shots, Oregon State answered each basket with one of its own. The Utes were finding open threes but had trouble finding the bottom of the net the entire half. The Beavers had a double-digit lead once Utah turned the ball over for the fifth time with nine minutes to play in the half.
Tucker drained a three-pointer with 5:37 left in the half, the Utes’ first three of the game and gave the team some life. However, Oregon State quickly put out any fire Utah may have been starting and the Beavers held on to a 34-23 lead.
Utah was 2-of-12 from three-point range in the first 20 minutes, and Oregon State was 4-of-5. The Utes also managed to turn the ball over six times, which OSU got 10 points off of. Krystkowiak reminded his players in the locker room that they need to be playing hard no matter what.
“I shared with our team at halftime that we can’t base our energy to guard whether or not our shots are going in,” Krystkowiak said.
Utah came out with a lot more tenacity to open the second half. Jordan Loveridge made a three-pointer to get things going. After some back-and-forth play, Poeltl swatted the ball on defense, which got the Utes running, and Bonam was able to lay the ball in and eventually cut the lead to four points.
OSU soon drained a three pointer, and although Utah wouldn’t completely go away, the Beavers were working their lead back up. Soon, Utah left a wide-open shooter on the three-point line and Oregon State got the lead back up to 10.
This lead was maintained for the next few minutes until Utah was able to get it down to six with under eight minutes to go. Tucker soon drained a corner three to make it a three-point game with the score at 48-45. Then, Loveridge found another three pointer and tied the game at 50.
After a basket from each side and the flagrant foul, Utah made 1-of-2 free throws to take its first lead of the game at 53-52. Poeltl was later fouled and was 1-of-2 from the stripe. When OSU attempted to tie up the game, the shot rolled off the rim and Kyle Kuzma secured the rebound for the Utes. Utah got the rest of its points from the free throw line.
With another win under their belt, Krystkowiak hopes things will be smooth sailing from here on out.
“I’d like to believe it isn’t going to get much harder than this and what we’ve gone through,” Krystkowiak said. “Hopefully this is a little bit of a confidence boost for us to be able to close out a game.”
The Utes are on the road this week and will face Washington State on Thursday and Washington State on Sunday.