Utes beat Huskies 67-61 to open Pac-12 tournament

Utes beat Huskies 67-61 to open Pac-12 tournament

Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 12, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Washington Huskies forward Desmond Simmons (30) shoots against Utah Utes guard/forward Princeton Onwas (3) and guard Delon Wright (55) during the first half in the first round of the Pac-12 Conference Tournament at MGM Grand Garden Arena.

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by Associated Press

KING5.com

Posted on March 12, 2014 at 3:50 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 12 at 3:50 PM

LAS VEGAS  -- Utah had seen late leads disappear, been through its share of collapses this season.

Faced with a crucial stretch after losing yet another lead, the Utes found a way to pull it out and now get to move on in the Pac-12 tournament.

Delon Wright scored 15 points and Jordan Loveridge added 13, helping Utah hold off Washington 67-61 in the opening round of the tournament on Wednesday.

"We came out in the second half a little bit flat as our team has been known to do," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "We were down one and made some plays, hit some shots when we needed to and we got some big-time stops.”

Utah (21-10) dominated the first half before allowing Washington back in it. The Huskies chipped away at the lead and went up 59-58 on a putback by Desmond Simmons with 1:24 left.

Instead of folding, the Utes pulled away.

Dakarai Tucker put Utah ahead 63-60 on a 3-pointer from the corner with 37 seconds left and Brandon Taylor hit two free throws after Washington's Nigel Williams-Goss missed a potential tying 3-pointer.

There's no time to celebrate now, though: Up next is a quarterfinal matchup against top-seeded Arizona, a team that beat the Utes twice this season.

"There will be a lot of anticipation for it and here we are, as we have been in the previous games against them, the underdog," Krystkowiak said. "I like that element.”

Washington (17-15) had trouble getting shots to fall in the first half, trailing by up to 12. The Huskies started to find their rhythm when Williams-Goss became more assertive, setting up a back-and-forth finish after taking the lead midway through.

Washington just couldn't get the shots to fall, making a quick exit from the Pac-12 tournament.

Darin Johnson had 16 points, Williams-Goss 15 and C.J. Wilcox added 14 for the Huskies.

"Thought our guys played hard, played tough, did things for most of that half that in a lot of games it would allow you to win the game," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. "Utah is a tough team.  We knew they were tough coming in, and we have a lot of respect for them and what they've been able to do.  Down the stretch we weren't able to make the plays.”

Utah made a surprising run in last year's Pac-12 tournament, knocking off Southern California and California before losing to eventual champion Oregon in the semifinals.

The Utes came into this year's tournament on a bit of a roll after closing out their first winning season since 2008-09 with four straight wins.

Washington played a difficult nonconference schedule and had an uneven run through the Pac-12, losing five of six before closing the regular season with two wins in its final three games.

The teams split two games during the regular season, each winning at home.

The Utes jumped out early in the third meeting as Washington missed shot after shot.

Some of it was Utah's defense; the Utes are long up front and were good at protecting the rim.

The Huskies contributed by missing open shots, often badly, from the perimeter, on runners, and in the paint. Washington missed 13 of its first 17 shots and went 7 of 26 in the first half.

Utah quickly built a 10-point lead with a 9-0 run and led 34-24 at halftime.

The Huskies found their stroke in the second half, hitting four of their first five shots -- starting with two by Williams-Goss, who had two points on 1-of-5 shooting in the first half.  Washington chipped away at Utah's lead and went ahead on Johnson's layup midway through, setting up a tight finish.

"Our defense; we turned it up on that side of the ball and we were scrapping," Wilcox said. "We were able to get out and run a little bit, and we were just getting our hands on a lot of loose balls and going the other way.”

They just didn't have enough to finish it off, allowing Utah to move on to the next round.

 

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