The Utes dug themselves into a hole to open the Pac-12 schedule, and now it appears that they may have dug themselves back out after sweeping the Washington schools. Utah (15-5, 4-3 Pac-12) picked up a big win on the road Sunday night, against the Washington Huskies (13-6, 5-2 Pac-12) in overtime by a score of 80-75. Washington was alone in first place before the night started. Utah was led by Jakob Poeltl's All-American effort of 29 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists. Poeltl came up big from the free throw line, hitting 13-of-16. Following up Poeltl's big night was Kyle Kuzma, who put in 11 points and 10 rebounds, Lorenzo Bonam pitched in 12 points, plus Dakari Tucker and Jordan Loveridge had 10 a piece (all of Loveridge's points came in the second half and overtime).
Utah was better on defense on the night, holding UW to just 38% shooting from the floor, and 23% from three. Utah was also +1 in the rebounding category, holding a 47-46 edge. Pac-12 leading scorer UW guard Andrew Andrews was held to 17 points after topping 30 in each of Washington's last two games.
Utah has swept the Washington schools, and seemingly has put themselves in a position to compete for the conference title, when things were looking real bleak about a week and a half ago. According to various people on Twitter, Utah is the first Pac-12 team to sweep a road trip (which illustrates how difficult it is to win on the road in the Pac-12).
This was an exciting, back and forth game. Utah's biggest lead on the night was five, and UW's biggest lead was four. After a slow start for both teams offensively, both teams got it going in the second half and overtime. If one team went on a run, the other team always answered with a run of their own.
Utah couldn't close out the game in regulation (which unfortunately has been a recurring theme this season for the Runnin' Utes). Utah was up by 5 with about a minute and a half left and by 3 with under 20 seconds remaining, but they surrendered a last second 3 to tie up the game. Some weren't happy with the last shot by Brandon Taylor, and were hoping to see Bonam take it to the hole, much like he did in overtime.
The Bad Part 2
The officiating. I mean, it's Pac-12 officials, so we have a certain expectation of poor calls, but tonight was a doozy on both sides of the ball for both teams. Whether it was Bonam getting roughed up near the end of the game and getting no call, and thus Coach K exploding, or the "flagrant" foul that was called on UW, that was later overturned. Come on Pac-12, please do better.
What we learned
Utah has some fight, and now have shown some clutch play in three big games this season, Colorado, Oregon State and Washington. The Stanford game really hurts, and we don't talk about the Oregon game. Utah just needs to keep on this trajectory. They are keeping turnovers relatively in check, only 12 tonight (with 17 assists), and Poeltl is playing huge. What needs to find a better way to counter when he sits, as Utah went to a lineup tonight, with Reyes and Wright that really stalled things.
The Bay Area schools come into the Huntsman Center this Wednesday and Saturday, starting with Cal (who just upset Arizona). Utah dropped both games in the Bay Area to open conference play, and will be looking to continue this momentum they've built.