2014 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament first round: Utah holds off Washington
LAS VEGAS – Utah Utes swingman Dakarai Tucker hit a three-point shot to break a tie game with 40 seconds to go, and that was the edge his team needed to pull out a 67-61 opening-round Pac-12 tournament victory over the Washington Huskies.
No. 8 seed Utah relentlessly crashed the glass and made sure to score off the turnovers by No. 9 seed Washington at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Wednesday. That earned Larry Krystkowiak's team the right to play the top-seeded Arizona Wildcats on Thursday at 12 p.m. PT on Pac-12 Networks.
“We got some big-time stops,” Krystkowiak said of his team, which limited Washington to 37 percent shooting and five assists on the afternoon to win despite losing a 10-point halftime lead. “It was fun to recapture that momentum.”
Tucker's shot came thanks to extra shooting work with Krystkowiak. And he was allowed the open look thanks to an extra pass from Utes forward Jordan Loveridge, who was assuredly going to be attracting attention from opposing defenses if his team was to make a run. Krystkowiak said he's been preaching trust, and that trust rewarded Utah with a big shot.
“Jordan could have taken that,” Krystkowiak said of the play that ended in Tucker's shot. “It couldn't have happened at the better time.”
Behind Utah's aggression was guard Delon Wright, who scored 15 points, grabbed seven rebounds, while adding three steals and two blocks. While Wright did his usual damage across the board, he carried the Utes by attacking the rim and going 9-for-11 from the foul stripe.
“I think I just saw some open lanes and I tried to attack,” Wright said. “It worked out for me.”
[Related video: Utah's Delon Wright talks about advancing to the quarterfinals]
Utah scored 15 second-chance points, all but two coming in the first half, while another 14 points came off UW turnovers. The Utes opened up a 10-point lead nine minutes in and by that point Wright had already firmly imprinted his name on the game.
It didn't help Washington's cause that leading-scorer C.J. Wilcox found himself in early foul trouble. Wilcox played carefully after picking up two fouls before he too began attacking the basket, then getting to the foul line. Aside his nine first-half points, the Huskies couldn't get much going, hitting 27 percent from the floor and relying heavily on foul shooting to trail 34-24 at halftime.
Washington came out of the second half with a burst, and it started with the defense. That allowed the Huskies to get into the open court and thus avoid Utah's own stingy halfcourt defense.
“We turned it up on that side of the ball,” Wilcox said. “We were scrapping … just getting our hands on a lot of balls and going the other way.”
Offensively, freshman Nigel Williams-Goss was the key force behind a run in the first nine minutes of the second half.
The point guard found Shawn Kemp Jr. for a dunk, later hit Desmond Simmons for a post-up hook shot and then drilled a three-pointer.
During that run, the Huskies held the Utes without a field goal and outscored them 10-1 over a seven-minute span, at the end of which Washington had gained a 41-40 lead with just under 11 minutes left. Wright and the Utes responded to retake lead 58-53 with less than four minutes left, but Washington reeled off six straight, taking a 59-58 lead with 1:25 remaining before Tucker hit the dagger three-point shot from the left corner.
“Kind of a tale of two halves,” Krystkowiak said. “We came out the second half a little bit flat, as our team's been known to do.”
Washington hit just 37 percent of its shots for the game and was powered by Wilcox, who finished with 14 points on 5-for-14 shooting. Utah took the risk of switching its big men on Wilcox off screens, keeping him from having any room to get off a shot.
[Related video: Larry Krystkowiak on first-round win over Washington]
“We just tried to keep the ball out of C.J.'s hand as best we could,” Krystkowiak said.
Williams-Goss added 15 points, three assists and three steals, and fellow freshman guard Darin Johnson scored 16 off the bench.
Meanwhile, Utah's offense operated with precision, especially early on – the Utes had 12 field goals on seven assists through the first 20 minutes. The Utes also did a good deal of damage on the offensive glass, scoring 13 second-chance points before halftime.
“Did things for most of that half that in a lot of games could allow you to win the game,” said Washington coach Lorenzo Romar. “Down the stretch, we weren't able to make the plays.”