Right from the beginning in Pullman, Utah was ready to play — a welcome change from other nights — and beat Washington State 92-71 on the road.
Jordan Loveridge scored 22 points, and Brandon Taylor followed with 21 points. Both drained five three-pointers throughout the game, as the team finished 50 percent from beyond the arc and 55.6 percent from the floor.
“Felt good to get our mojo back and getting back to Utah basketball,” Loveridge said.
It was a complete team effort from the Utes, as Jakob Poeltl had 14 points and Lorenzo Bonam chipped in another 13. Also, they both recorded five assists and five rebounds. It was a cleaner effort from the entire Ute squad as the players only turned the ball over eight times.
Heach coach Larry Krystkowiak thinks his team did a much better job from all aspects on the court, offensively and defensively.
“Got to respect the game, and we talked about trying to start a little bit or revival, a renewal with our basketball team,” Krystkowiak said. “We’re managing away, and I was encouraged with a number of things I saw. We were really darn good tonight, and it was great to see the shots go in.”
A Poeltl dunk got the Utes on the board first, and Loveridge had a nice floater in the paint as the Utes came out with visibly more effort than they have in previous games. Washington State did its best to keep up, but Loveridge scored an early eight points to help give the Utes a 10-point lead.
Instead of turning the ball over, the Utes were causing the Cougars to commit turnovers. The Utes used this to their advantage to run the floor more efficiently, finding buckets in transition. At the end of the half, Utah had 13 points off of Washington State’s eight turnovers.
Utah led by 14 points with under eight minutes to play in the half. When a Washington State three-pointer cut the lead to single digits, Taylor knocked in one of his own to answer back.
Toward the end of the half, the Utes forced the Cougars to take contested, difficult shots and went on their own run. At the half, Utah lead 43-28.
Heading into the locker rooms, the Utes had only three turnovers. They were shooting 48.4 percent from the floor, and Loveridge led all players with 11 points. This was the first time in Pac-12 play that Loveridge has reached the double-digit mark.
Utah opened up the second half in similar fashion to the first, scoring on its first possession. On the other end of the court, Washington State got a three-point play, to which Loveridge responded with another three-pointer to put the Utes up by 17 points.
Washington State attempted to chip away at the deficit, but Utah kept adding to it and was soon up by 23 points. The seniors led the way for the Utes as they continued to run up the score, never losing control of the game.
Krystkowiak thinks his players can let off the gas pedal a bit for now because of the way they played, and he hopes this win propels them through the rest of the Pac-12 season.
“It’s the time of the season to execute, and it’s the time to free up your minds and go make a play,” Krystkowiak said. “This is that time of year to let if fly and have some fun. I think we’ve been grinding a little too much, and hopefully this was one of those boosts that we’re going to be able to continue for the rest of the season.”
The Utes are now 3-3 in conference play and will be looking to add another win this Sunday at Washington at 5:30 p.m. PT.