After opening the conference season with a loss to the Stanford Cardinal, the Runnin' Utes find themselves on a 5 game winning streak, including today's big out win over Stanford by a score of 96-74. Utah was led by five players in double figures, starting with Jakob Poeltl's 23 points on 5-of-7 from the floor, and 13-of-15 from the free throw line. Poeltl also had 7 rebounds in the game. Dakari Tucker pitched in 17 points, Kyle Kuzma had 16, Brandon Taylor 15, and Lorenzo Bonam 14. This is without a doubt the most balanced we've seen Utah all conference season, and likely all season.
Stanford was led by Dorian Pickens and Rosco Allen's 16 points, and also got 13 from Marcus Sheffield, plus 10 more from Marcus Allen.
Utah opened the game kind of slow, with two turnovers on their first few possessions, but when Utah's offense got on track, it was as efficient as we've seen all season. Utah's opening half field goal percentage was a blistering 71%, with 6-of-10 from the three point line. Stanford was sagging into the paint quite a bit to help limit Poeltl's touches, and that helped create opportunities for Taylor and Tucker to hit from deep. Lorenzo Bonam's dribble penetration was big all night long, and also helped create many of those three point opportunities.
Utah's defense wasn't the best in the first half, however, as Stanford shot just shy of 50% from the field themselves, and that helped them stay in the game. Utah had some serious issues finishing defensive possessions in the first half, as Stanford was attacking the offensive boards, giving themselves second shot opportunities, as they picked up 8 extra possessions based off of those boards in the first half. Stanford's aggression on the glass gave them nine more shot opportunities, and helped compensate for the shooting difference between the two teams.
Coming out of half, it was evident that was an emphasis, as up until the final moments of garbage time, Utah held Stanford to just one offensive board for much of the second half. While Utah wasn't as hot from the field as the first half, 48%, they hit 24-of-30 free throws in the second half to helped keep Stanford at a double digit deficit most of the night. Utah was constantly attacking the basket in the second half, as Stanford tried to close out on the three more aggressively. Bonam led the charge, but Taylor and Kuzma, even Poeltl, took opportunities to slash Stanford's defense and create for others.
There were some fireworks in the latter part of the game when Bonam and Rosco Allen were called for a double technical foul, after the two got mixed up after a Bonam drive. Allen was a target of The MUSS pretty heavily after that, as he showed quite a bit of attitude during parts of this game trying to fire up his teammates.
Utah's defense locked down in the second half, as they held Stanford to just 30% shooting, bringing them down to 40% on the game. Both the coaches and players said in the post game that all they needed was a couple of defensive stops to blow the game open, and that's what we saw.
The past two weeks, we've seen the Utah team we've all thought we would see this season, so it's nice to see them rounding into form. After starting 0-2 in league, the Utes are now 6-3, and are just a loss behind for 1st place in the conference. Now the Utes go on the road to the Oregon schools, OSU on Thursday and Oregon and Sunday. This will make 7 of the first 11 conference games on the road for the Utes, so they will spend the last couple of weeks at the Huntsman Center to close out the regular season.
Utah is now in a great position to contend for the title, and this next week will be huge, as always.
Here are a couple post game interviews with Coach K and some players:
Here are some game notes from the Utes:
Utah matched a program-best five-game winning streak in Pac-12 Conference play with its 96-74 win over Stanford on Saturday. The Utes won five straight conference games last season.
• The Utes moved to 18-12 all-time against Stanford. Utah has won three of the previous four meetings against the Cardinal.
• Utah defeated Stanford by 20 points or more for the fourth time in the series history (96-74, 1/30/16; 80-56, 3/12/15; 53-15, 12/28/45; and 48-24, 1/6/34).
• Utah set a new school record for most points scored in a Pac-12 game, breaking the previous mark of 92 points that the squad scored last week against Washington State.
• This marks the first time that the Utes have scored 90 points or more on two different Pac-12 teams. It is the first time to score 90 points or more against conference opponents since 2008-09 when Utah was a member of the Mountain West Conference (91-67 vs. Wyoming, 1/3/09; 94-88 vs. BYU, 1/27/09).
• Utah set new season-highs in both free throws made (32) and free throw attempts (42).
• The Utes were 17-of-24 from the field in the first half and finished with a season-best 70.8 percent in the first half.
• The Utes recorded seven steals and posted 12 fast-break points off Stanford's miscues. Utah outscored the Cardinal 15-9 in points off turnovers.
• Utah had at least five players score 10 points or more in a single game for the sixth time this season (5-SDSU, 5-IPFW, 6-Savannah State, 5-College of Idaho, 5-Washington, 5-Stanford).
• Sophomore Jakob Poeltl finished with a game-high 23 points for the Utes. This was Poeltl's third straight 20-point game and seventh of the season.
• Poeltl became the first Utah player to score 20 points or more in three straight games since Luke Nevill did so back in 2006-07 (12/16/06 - 21, 12/19/06 - 20, 12/20/06 - 26).
• Senior Dakarai Tucker tied his season-high with 17 points on Saturday. His 10 points in the first half matched a career-high for points through the first 20 minutes of play (10 vs. USC, 1/16/14).
• Sophomore Kyle Kuzma scored 16 points against Stanford on Saturday. He has posted double-digit scoring efforts in nine of Utah's 12 home games this season.