Pac-12 Tournament: Utah rallies past Stanford with big second half
LAS VEGAS – No. 17 Utah turned a five-point halftime deficit into a 80-56 rout over Stanford on Thursday night in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The win propelled the third-seed Utes (23-7) to Friday's semifinals, where they face second-seeded Oregon at 8:30 p.m. PT in the late game.
On Thursday, guard Delon Wright led Utah with 20 points, and forward Jordan Loveridge tied a season-high with 18 points and notched eight rebounds. The Utes opened the second half on an 11-2 run to take a 45-41 lead after trailing 39-34 at the half. With 15:28 left in the game, Stanford forward Stefan Nastic picked up his fourth foul, and the Utes immediately took advantage by attacking the paint after Stanford held the advantage inside through the first 20 minutes.
"We had our struggles," Loveridge said. "But we knew if we got multiple stops in a row, we have a chance in any game, especially when we rebound and limit them to one shot. We should have a chance in any game we play."
When Wright followed a missed three-pointer with a two-handed dunk, the Utes shot to a 53-46 lead and rolled from there, outscoring the Cardinal 46-17 during the second half in front of a boisterous pro-Utah crowd of 12,916. It marked the 15th time this season Utah beat a team by at least 20 points, most in the country.
Wright said he took it upon himself to carry Utah after its sluggish start.
"This time kind of needed it," he said.
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This after six-seed Stanford (19-13), which beat Washington 71-69 on Wednesday night, was the aggressor in the opening 20 minutes.
The Cardinal jumped out to a 13-6 lead before Utah responded with a 14-2 burst, capped when Wright drained a three-pointer about midway through the first half to give the Utes a 20-15 lead and cause Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins to burn a timeout.
But from there, the Cardinal rallied over the next 10 minutes to take a 39-34 lead into halftime by controlling the paint. Nastic finished the first half with 11 points, Randle had a team-high 12 and Stanford held a 19-10 advantage in rebounds and a 5-0 advantage in second-chance points. During that stretch, Stanford attacked the paint repeatedly and converted when it resulted in trips to the foul line, making 10 of 11 free throws.
"We didn't exactly start off the first half the way we needed to," Krystowiak said. "We've talked a lot about playing hard. I just mentioned to our team after the game that maybe we were going through the motions a little bit with playing hard, and gave up some transition, and got outrebounded by (nine) in the first half, and made it pretty difficult on ourself."
[Related photos: Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament quarterfinals]
But the visitors went cold in the second half, making just six of 24 shots (25 percent). The Cardinal stopped attacking the paint with the same frequency, and Utah outrebounded it 29-5 over the final 20 minutes.
Plus, Utah upped its effort on defense. That opened up passing lanes and allowed Utah to get out in transition. The Utes knocked in eight of their 12 three-pointers in the second half and shot 50 percent from the field for the game.
"I challenged the team at halftime to come out and play an honest-type effort defense, and it was a really good second half," Krystowiak said. "I thought it all started with our defense."
Senior guard Chasson Randle led the Cardinal with 22 points, but Nastic was the only other Stanford player to finish in double figures, though he went scoreless in the second half.
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