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Utah beats Washington to break losing streak

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NCAA Basketball: Utah at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t exactly textbook when it comes to winning a game, but the Utes did enough to rally to beat Washington on Thursday night to break their four game losing streak. Utah was led by Riley Battin in scoring, with 17 points, many of which he got in the fist half to keep the Utes within striking distance. Timmy Allen and Rylan Jones each pitched in 13, with Jones getting most of this from the free throw line.

The first half, like most of the game, was pretty ugly offensive basketball. It’s crazy to think the Utes won a game when shooting 34% from the field, while giving up 51%. Utah trailed by just 4 going into the half, which the way Utah was playing was a minor miracle.

In the second half, UW threatened to run away and hide from Utah, as the Utes couldn’t get anything going, and UW was making plays on offense. Utah did fall behind by double digits a few times, but things really started to ramp up for the Utes at about the 5:25 mark. A 22-10 run to close out the game for Utah was spurred by a big 3-pointer from Allen, who brought the UW lead down to 60-55.

With 2:32 left to go, a blizzard six-point play for the Utes after Washington was called for a dead ball technical. It was a sequence that was similar to the Oregon State run that gave the Utes life in that game. Rylan Jones was fouled at the hoop, giving Utah four free throws between Mikael Jantunen – who was fouled – and Jones. After knocking down all four, Jones drew a foul beyond the arc and knocked down 2-of-3 to cut the deficit down to 62-61. It kind of felt like that one point would loom large.

The Huskies answered with a 4-0 run to make it a two-possession game, 66-61, before Allen and Jones knocked down the next six free throws, including the one that gave Utah the go-ahead (67-66) lead with 14 seconds remaining from Jones. Battin then came up clutch in the waning seconds after that, and drew a charge on Washington’s Jamal Bey with less than a second left on the clock to secure the victory. Utah didn’t score another basket in the game after the 3 minute mark, which blows my mind. Utah’s final 12 points all came from the free throw line to get them the win. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before in basketball.

Jones really got the Utes offense moving later in that second half, when he started to prove that long zone that they play, and was aggressive attacking it, instead of just hoisting up threes where Utah was 3 of 24 for the night.

It was a nice win for the Utes to get things headed the right direction. Utah now moves on to Wazzu on Saturday to try to build on this momentum.

Here’s the quotes after the game from Coach K and Jones, per the official press release:

Head Coach Larry Krystkowiak

On Jones hitting clutch shots in multiple games as a freshman…

“It’s comforting to know that he’s out there and it’s amazing to make the free throws but to have nine assists in that ball game where it seemed like we made about six shots. It was really hard scoring against the zone and our guys stayed in the fight, it’s grindy and that’s hard to score against. I thought a couple of the big keys for us team wise was to have 10 turnovers and I think we had eight at half time and when you’re that bad offensively sometimes you quit and it takes the life out of the team and the building. The other big key was to be able to out rebound that team by nine because they are one of our conference’s elite rebounding teams. We hung our hat on some of the staples of taking care of it, rebounding it and on a night where the offense was a struggle we managed to make enough plays going down the stretch and we found a little momentum, the building came to life and I just thought it was a heck of a performance.”

Coach K on coaching a freshman with much moxie and showing he can do it in late game situations…

“Yeah I can’t really say that I have. He’s comforting, a tough kid and he’s been on a steep learning curve and roller coaster and it’s hard with the stretch that we just went through. When you think about the elite point guards, I think it started with Ethan Thompson, Peyton Prichard, McKinley Wright, Nico Mannion and Remy Martin. That’s five elite point guards for a freshman to start out our league and he has his hands full all the time and hasn’t been playing maybe up to his standards, our team has kind of been struggling, but certainly in this building he’s been a guy. If you think back on a couple games, he’s stepped up and made big plays. From a coaching perspective it’s nice to have somebody on the floor, certainly freshman or senior, but to know he is going to be around here for a minute is always good to have that moxie and toughness and I think he’s grown and is doing a really nice job.”

Freshman Point Guard #15 Rylan Jones

On how the team kept its head up with a four-game losing streak and down 12…

”There’s no quit in this team. We’re a bunch of tough kids, we just want to play hard and win. We weren’t going to give up, we wanted to get off this losing streak and get to eleven wins. Our crowd was great, they gave us the energy we needed. It felt like we hadn’t had a home game in a month. We weren’t going to give up tonight.”