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Utah basketball: Utes snap losing skid, top Idaho State 71-59

Published December 19, 2011 11:54 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The worst season in Utah basketball history veered off script Friday.

The Utes won.

They entered the game as three-point underdogs to an Idaho State team that struggled nearly as much in the early season as Utah did and walked off the Huntsman Center floor 71-59 victors, drenched with adoration from an announced 7,295 relieved fans.

A 2-8 record never felt so good.

"Words can't even describe it," junior center Jason Washburn said.

Then he tried to prove himself wrong.

"It's a lot of emotion, just built up," Washburn said. "It felt so good. It felt even better because of how we did it — with full team effort."

The Utes hadn't led a game by double digits this season. Their only win? A three-point victory against San Diego Christian College, apparently a Christian college in San Diego. Each of their last six losses were by more than 10 points. They entered the game ranked No. 330 out of 345 Division I teams in the Sagarin ratings.

Yes, the Utes had suffered enough.

"The guys have been fighting like heck and I think the rim opened up for us a little bit and the guys were comfortable," first-year coach Larry Krystkowiak said.

The fact the Utes won wasn't the only thing that was backwards Friday night. Example: Josh "Jiggy" Watkins, the leading scorer in the Pac-12 Conference, was held to just three points, while players such as Cedric Martin (19 points), Jason Washburn (17 points) and Dijon Farr (16 points) led the way for the Utes.

Not that this one was easy for the Utes.

Utah trailed throughout the first half and fell behind 43-35 with 15:39 in the second half.

That's been the point this season where Krystkowiak would usually call cut, the Utes would pack it in and fall apart and Utah fans could beat whatever traffic there was and leave the gym, assured their Utes had done it again.

Friday, the Utes rallied.

Junior college transfer Javon Dawson made back-to-back layups. Martin made a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer.

By the time the dust settled, Utah had bullied its way to a 24-6 run, and held a 59-49 lead.

"Everybody stepped up," Martin said. "It's not like some of the games in the past where we have just a few people step up doing their job, and some people had a sluggish night. Today everybody stepped up and did their job."

That meant from Krystkowiak to Martin to Washburn to Watkins — who, despite being held in check offensively, tallied a season-high eight assists — and, even, to Krystkowiak's barista.

Yes, barista.

A former journeyman pro, Krystkowiak is as superstitious as anyone in the game. Friday he pulled into Starbucks and ordered a drink.

"I said, 'Man, I need a lucky Starbucks,'" Krystkowiak said. "He goes, 'Yeah, I really want you to win and I think everybody in this town wants you to win.'"

Needless to say, Krystkowiak — who said he had never visited the coffee shop in the evening — has a new pregame ritual —

In short

R Utah wins its first game against a Division 1 opponent since Feb. 22, when the Utes beat TCU 50-48.