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Utes sneak past Washington State 74-70

NCAA Basketball: Washington State at Utah Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t pretty, heck, it wasn’t even close to pretty as the Utes beat Wazzu tonight by a score of 74-70. Things started rough for the Utes, as they fell behind by 10 early on, 19-9, after having a flurry of turnovers in the first eight minutes of the game. Utah got things in order for the remainder of the half, and went on a 25-4 run, before leading by six at half, after Wazzu hit a couple of threes to trim the 11 point lead. Utah was pretty solid on defense in that opening half, only allowing Wazzu to shoot 38%, but those seven turnovers kept the game closer than it should have been.

The second half, Utah tried to pull away, over and over again, and would get a 9 or 10 point lead, and then just just stumble over themselves. The Cougars mounted their run in the latter half of the second half, as Utah’s defense was poor, allowing the Cougars to shoot 55%, while Utah gave them seven more turnovers. Luckily for the Utes, Malachi Flynn missed a three that could have sent the game to overtime, and while it was deep, it was a pretty good look.

The Utes were led by David Collette’s 22 points, while Lorenzo Bonam had 13 and Kyle Kuzma pitched in 10 points, all in the second half. Devon Daniels has hit a bit of a skid the last couple of weeks, and JoJo Zamora hasn’t had much impact, let alone minutes, for the same period of time.

Needless to say, the Utes are in a funk and are lucky to beat the same team they beat by 41 points on the road a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully a win will give them confidence, but they’ve been shaky, outside of that first half run tonight. Turnovers, missed free throws (although they were a solid 22-of-31 tonight), and poor defense has been a theme for the Utes for the last week and a half. It’s strange to see a Coach K team have the lapses on defense they’ve had. Turnovers have always been a little bit of an issue, but not to the extent we’ve seen at times this year. The lack of a true ball handling point guard is very apparent.

The Utes next test is against Washington, a more talented team than WSU, and another game they need to win. Here’s to hoping this win will help propel them to a better performance against the Huskies.