No one expected this. This was supposed to be a tune-up for the Pac-12 tournament, a formality. Washington came into this game 15-14 on the season, 4-13 in conference play. Utah was (and I stress was) the No. 13-ranked team in the country. None of those statements are true after today, as the Runnin' Utes went into Seattle and let the Huskies steal the second place seed from them 68-77.
All season, Utah has found a way to avoid the "bad loss," which is a killer to the resume of an NCAA Tournament team. Not anymore. Losing to Washington, even on the road this season, is a bad loss.
"Hopefully, it's a nice little damn wake-up call for some guys who have been drinking some Kool-Aid," said Utes head coach Larry Krystkowiak.
Hopefully, indeed, as the Utes head into the Pac-12 post season tournament as the third seed. Utah was picked to finish second in the conference, and all they needed to do to merely meet expectations was win today. Instead, the talented, experienced, well-coached Utes let second place and the two seed in the conference tournament drive right down the lane on them and score at will.
Washington was led by guard Nigel Williams-Goss, who, frankly, torched Utah star guard Delon Wright time after time. Williams-Goss put up 28 points, six rebounds, three assists, and two steals. He shot 11-of-18 from the field (61 percent), most of his baskets coming on little floaters in the middle of the lane.
No one on the Utah squad could defend a perimeter player today. Washington drove the ball right at the Utah defenders and either went to the free throw line or scored layups. As a team, the Huskies shot 51 percent, and were even better from deep (57.1 percent).
Defense and rebounding have been the hallmark of this Utah squad in the 2014-2015 season, but not today. In addition to porous defense, Utah allowed the smaller Huskies to out-rebound them 28-23, 9-7 on the offensive glass. Washington's starters accounted for 22 rebounds to just 14 for the Utes starters. The Huskies out-rebounded Utah 17-4 in the second half.
Jakob Poeltl had a decent game, scoring every time he got the ball in position (8-for-8 shooting) and finishing with 18 points, but the 7-footer also only had five rebounds, which should have been twice that amount. So... two steps forward on the offensive side of the ball, and one step back on the boards.
Wright tallied 21 points on 6-of-11 shooting, 9-of-9 from the free throw line, but wasn't the disruptive defensive force he usually is. Wright posted just one steal on the game, three rebounds, and two assists.
Junior forward Jordan Loveridge added 11 points, and Brandon Taylor contributed eight.
As a team, Utah shot just 26.3 percent from the three-point line, the savior of the Washington State game.
The loss drops the Runnin' Utes to 23-7, 13-5 in the Pac-12. The Pac-12 Tournament starts shortly, and, as Krystkowiak noted, this team needs to get itself together. They'll go into the tournament as the three seed; however, they will still receive the first round bye.
Utah needs to avoid slow starts and defensive lapses in Vegas, or they could be going home early & hoping for a favorable first-round NCAA matchup.