Utah basketball: Utes demolish Arizona State 86-63
By tony jones
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Feb 23 2014 05:39PM
For one half, Utah basketball turned the Huntsman Center into a track meet.
And for an entire game, the Utes put on their best performance of the season. An 86-63 demolition of Arizona State on Sunday night was impressive. The way that it was done was even more so.
Utah set a tone early, blocking five of ASU’s first eight shots. The Utes forced turnovers, ran the fastbreak and converted easy points. Their defense befuddled Wildcats star Jahii Carson, and it wasn’t too long before ASU coach Herb Sendek ran out of answers.
This was simply Utah’s night, and it came before 10,401 and the first ESPN national audience of the season.
"You could tell by that first blocked shot that guys were kind of fired up," Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "We had defense and energy out there. Guys were out there protecting the rim, and it carried over to the offensive end."
It will be hard for Utah to duplicate its first half performance over the remainder of the season. By the time 20 minutes elapsed, the Utes had rung up 51 points and led by 25. Krystkowiak - armed with four days of preparation - played 10 guys significant minutes. He shook up his starting lineup - inserting Princeton Onwas and Dallin Bachynski - and the move paid dividends.
Arizona State scored the first basket, and the Utes promptly went on an 11-0 run. Utah led by as much as 35-11 after 13 minutes and 47-20 on a lay-up by Delon Wright with two minutes remaining in the first half.
"We had a lot of ball movement out there tonight," Wright said. "Guys were out there making the extra pass. We made open shots and we got out in transition and got easy baskets. We wanted to come out and play well, and I think we accomplished that tonight."
Wright, a junior guard, led the way with 22 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three steals and three blocks. But he was hardly the only attraction for the Utes on this night.
Sophomore forward Jordan Loveridge scored 18 points and grabbed six rebounds. Renan Lenz scored 14 points in 13 minutes, and Onwas added 12 points, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal. It was his first start since before conference play.
"Those guys certainly gave us a lift," Krystkowiak said.
Defensively, Onwas and Wright clamped down on Arizona State’s star backcourt - Carson and Jermaine Marshall. The two shot a combined 6-23 from the field. Dallin Bachynski kept his brother Jordan Bachynski in check, holding him to five points and six rebounds on 1-6 shooting.
Without the usual contributions of those three, Arizona State was lost. Shaquielle McKissic tried to pick up the slack with 16 points, and Bo Barnes scored 11 points off the bench. But, ASU went 6-27 from 3-point range, shot 30 percent overall from the game and lost the rebounding battle, 44-36.
The victory - all wins from here out - is significant for Utah. The Utes move to 18-9 on the season. They move to 7-8 in the Pac-12, and they keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive. It will take a hot ending to the season, but top-50 RPI wins are gold to teams that have at-large aspirations, and Arizona State has a top-50 RPI.
"We plan on winning the Pac-12 tournament and not making it about the selection committee," Krystkowiak said.
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Utah goes on an 11-2 run to begin the game and never looks back
Delon Wright scores 22 points, grabs nine rebounds and hands out six assists
Utah moves to 18-9 on the season