The Runnin’ Utes completed the season sweep of the Washington schools with their Saturday afternoon defeat of the Washington Huskies, 85-61. The Huskies entered the matchup down two players, Malik Dime who was suspended for slapping a Colorado fan Thursday night and Markelle Fultz who is dealing with a nagging injury.
In their absence David Crisp put up a career night, scoring 31 points, but it wouldn’t be enough to beat a balanced Utah team. All five of Utah’s starters reached double digits and the Utah bench outscored Washington’s by 10 points. With the balanced effort the Utes move to 17-8 on the season and 8-5 in Pac 12 play.
Another Rocky Start
Beginning a game unfocused and sloppy has become a trademark of this Utah team over the last few weeks and that trend would continue against the Huskies.
When Utah’s first possession ended in a Parker Van Dyke turnover, you knew exactly how things would transpire. The first seven minutes of the game were a bit wacky for a team competing in the comfort of their own arena. Couple the fact that Utah was whistled with five fouls to Washington’s zero, and that Utah would commit six turnovers leading to 6 Husky points, and it is easy to understand the early 18-10 deficit.
Utah just looked to lack focus. Their passes had a lazy loft to them, players weren’t fighting for position, screens weren’t set tight and defensively everyone stood upright and motionless. It was a train wreck and head coach Larry Krystkowiak had seen enough.
Break a Clipboard, Break the Trend
Wildly upset and disappointed, Krystkowiak elected to call a timeout. At a loss for words, Krystkowiak later admitted to using some choice expletives and hitting his clipboard in anger, to the point that he would end up cutting his hand. The display was a last ditch effort to wake up his team from a two week funk. And boy did they wake up. In less than two minutes time Lorenzo Bonam and Devon Daniels would each drain a three pointer and David Collette would drop in a one handed floater. Just like that things were tied up at 18 after the 8-0 run.
Utah would not stop there, equalizing the game was not enough. With new life, the Utes picked up their intensity on the defensive end. Washington would go nine and a half minutes without scoring a bucket, missing eight straight shots. Over the same time frame, Utah would force seven turnovers completely changing the game.
Utah would eventually finish the spell in tune of a 20-0 run, extending the lead 30-18. Washington eventually stopped the bleeding, but then Daniels scored seven points in the last 1:34 and Utah enjoyed a 44-28 halftime lead.
Guards Step Up
One glaring absence during Utah’s Bay Area road trip was the lack of production from the guard line. Utah had found great success earlier in the season by having aggressive play from their perimeter players. In order to make progress going forward the guards would have to find their rhythm again. Saturday afternoon proved to be the launching pad. The starting perimeter players, Bonam, Daniels and Van Dyke combined for 43 points with each player reaching double digits. They were smarter with their shots and were able to shoot a combined 64% from the field and 56% from beyond the arc. They also kept better care of the ball, as seen by their 10:3 assist to turnover ratio.
Devon Daniels returned to form by scoring 16 points, only two missed shots, and grabbing eight rebounds. Daniels looked more engaged and vocal on defense as well.
Van Dyke showed that he deserves his starting spot, leading all Utes with four made three pointers and four assists.
The Head of the Snake
With Fultz out for the game, Krystkowiak knew that Crisp was going to be the player that they needed to keep in check. This time, however, Utah would not be capable of cutting the head off of the Washington snake. Crisp had a career night with his 31 points. Unlike most 30 plus point performances, Crisp was not aided by an absurd amount of free throw opportunities. Crisp only made it to the line one time and missed his only attempt. Crisp reached the mark with his 21 attempts from the field and by making five of his 10 three point shots.
Combine his performance with the 18 points from Noah Dickerson and the two players would account for 80.3% of the scoring for the Huskies.
Utah did a much better job of creating quality shots for their teammates. At times, however, they found themselves in trouble by passing the ball too many times and eventually passing up good shots to eventually turn the ball over. The first few minutes were ugly with Utah having six turnovers, but once the calmed down things began to click. The Utes only committed five turnovers in the second half. If they could consistently play like that, they could be a force in the tournament.
Utah made 55.7% of its shots and 21 of their 34 made baskets were assisted. The 21 assists marks their best performance since entering Pac 12 play this season.
Coach Krystkowiak will give his guys Sunday and Monday off in order to recharge their batteries before heading out to Eugene to take on the #5 Oregon Ducks. This will be Utah’s last chance in the regular season to get a high quality win on the resume. Utah will face the Duck this Thursday at 7:00 PM MT. The game will be on ESPN 2.