Utah basketball: Utes soak up first Pac-12 victory
The Utes, rightly, had an easier time explaining the significance of an overtime win over Washington State than a 40-point loss at Colorado.
"It was a big for Utah and Utah's history, the first Pac-12 win at home," junior guard Chris Hines said.
After 13 games in which they consistently broke records for futility, the Utes removed the possibility of another with their 62-60 win over Washington State: They won't become just the second team in Pac-10/12 history to go 0-18.
"This win took a lot off our shoulders," junior Cedric Martin said.
After the Utes' performance at Colorado, it seemed almost laughable when Washington State coach Ken Bone said this week that, "Utah is good enough to beat us."
The Utes entered the game as a 17-point underdog against a team, keep in mind, that was picked to finish in a 10th-place tie in the preseason.
But the Utes proved more resilient than they demonstrated earlier in the season.
Then again, almost everything about Thursday's victory was better than any part of the season to that point.
"It couldn't have been scripted any better for our first [home conference] game," Larry Krystkowiak said. "The blackout game and having some warriors and having an overtime it's pretty neat."
While no one might have predicted a win given the Utes' trajectory this season, Krystkowiak said he believed the Utes turned a corner this week in practice.
"Sometimes you have a little bit of a gut feeling, and I'd be lying if I said that I didn't," Krystkowiak said. "I knew that we were going to play hard and that's the part that was fun. I mentioned it to our coaches at our pregame meal."
He even texted with his brother Bernie, who lives near Kalispell, Mont.
"He said he was having good vibes," Krystkowiak said, "and I said, 'Yeah, I'm kind of feeling the same thing.' "
After Josh Watkins made his second clutch elbow jumper of the night one to force overtime, the other to win it in the extra period the Utes exploded on the court.
On Washington State's next possession, the Cougars turned the ball over. The Utes inbounded with 1.5 seconds remaining and Watkins threw the ball toward the rafters.
He was mobbed by his teammates. They were all feeling the same thing, too.