Utah basketball: Utes roll, 64-43, as Arizona State proves to be good tonic
Saturday brought nothing the Huntsman Center hadn't seen before: One team went long stretches without scoring and its center air-balled a hook shot, that team losing by more than 20 points and digging deeper to find a new rock bottom.
For once, it wasn't the Utes.
Instead, Utah never trailed as it capped a week of turmoil with triumph, a 64-43 win over Arizona State in front of an announced crowd of 9,092.
"It feels good to be on the other end," Utah guard Chris Hines said.
If there's one thing the Utes know, it's blowout losses; they've suffered no fewer than 11 of them. Throughout this rebuilding season the Utes (5-14, 2-5 Pac-12) have been considered the worst major-conference team in America. Against the Sun Devils, who were without leading scorer Trent Lockett due to injury, Utah unleashed months of unfulfilled potential.
The Utes clamped down on defense, opening the game 12-0 before Arizona State scored.
They started the second half on a 10-0 run as well. The Utes made 52.5 percent of their shots, and were 9-of-17 on 3-pointers.
Not bad for a team that dismissed its leading scorer, point guard Josh Watkins, for undisclosed violations of team rules.
"What happened this week only made us stronger, I think," said junior center Jason Washburn, who finished with 10 points and six rebounds before fouling out. "We went into both games this week thinking we were going to win."
Utah lost on Thursday to Arizona, 77-51, suffering its ninth loss by more than 20 points.
Against the Sun Devils, Cedric Martin scored 17 points, including five made 3-pointers, which tied a career high. He led four Utes in double figures, including Watkins' replacement, freshman point guard Kareem Storey.
In just his third career start, Storey bolstered his 12 points with six assists and just one turnover.
"That's the kind of ratio we're looking for," coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "He did a nice job of running the show for us."
The Utes' lead grew to as much as 28 points, as the Utes familiar woes seemed to rub off on Arizona State. The Sun Devils shot just 38.6 percent from the field on their way to a season-low points total. Through 11 minutes in the second half, they had scored just two points.
The result was Utah's most lopsided win of the season, and biggest victory since beating Grand Canyon by 24 in last year's season opener.
"The feeling's kind of indescribable," Washburn said. "We got a lead early, something we're not always used to and we kept it. Not only did we keep it, but we kept building on it."
The question now for the Utes is how they will build off the victory. They travel this week to play at UCLA and USC, two struggling teams. The Trojans, in fact, entered Saturday at 0-6 in Pac-12 play, as the only team below Utah and ASU in the conference standings.
The value of Utah's win, though, couldn't be overstated Saturday.
"It was good for our confidence," Washburn said. "It was good for our team."
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R Utah improves to 5-5 at home this season with 64-43 win.
• Cedric Martin ties a career high with five 3-pointers and the junior guard leads the Utes with 17 points.
• The Utes and Sun Devils both play without their choice point guards: Josh Watkins was dismissed by Utah this week, and ASU leading scorer Trent Lockett did not play due to a sprained ankle.