The signs were there for Larry Krystkowiak on Tuesday night, even before his Utah Utes struggled to a 74-66 win over Idaho State.
It was his son on the way to the Huntsman Center who asked whether Krystkowiak was nervous for the matchup against BYU on Saturday night. Problem was, there was another team and a whole 40 minutes to play before Utah could even think about the Cougars.
"I just said I don't know, I'm kind of worried about the Bengals tonight," Krystkowiak said.
The exchange would prove to be prophetic. In what could be described as the classic trap game for the Utes, Krystkowiak's team lived up to that billing and more for 20 minutes.
At its worst moment, Utah found itself down 35-20 before 8,138 with 3:43 remaining in the first half. There was no energy in the building, no life in the Utes and not much defense on the floor. But Utah's slowly been making the case that it's a good team over the course of nine games. And good teams rally in those situations.
"We turned the ball over seven times in the first eight minutes," sophomore forward Jordan Loveridge said. "We needed to calm down and we needed to move the ball and get some good looks offensively. Once we started to do that, we started to have some success."
It was Loveridge who had the most impact. Playing all 40 minutes, he scored a career-high 27 points. He grabbed seven rebounds, handed out four assists and had three blocked shots. Delon Wright had 15 points, six rebounds and five assists, and Dakarai Tucker scored all 12 of his points in the second half.
Those three were instrumental in the rally. Down 37-22, Utah went on a 6-0 run to close the first half. That was the first step, turning a huge deficit into a workable nine-point margin at halftime. Utah finally took its first lead of the game at 47-46 with a Loveridge free throw at the 12-minute mark. And even though the Bengals would make a serious push at different points, the Utes never relinquished that advantage.
"Guys made some big plays tonight," Tucker said. "We were just trying to get comfortable out there and when we did we were able to come back and win."
Junior center Dallin Bachynski came off the bench to score seven points and grab four rebounds in 14 minutes. He did all of his work in the second half, and provided an interior presence Utah was missing with his energy and size in the paint.
After the win, Bachynski wrapped his knees with a bulging bag of ice. Krystkowiak said he wasn't expected to play against the Bengals on Tuesday night because of it.
"He was a catalyst out there for us," Krystkowiak said. "He came in and provided us with quite a lift."
Tomas Sanchez led Idaho State with 19 points and five assists. Andre Hatchett had 15 and Chris Hansen contributed 14.
O Utah overcomes its largest deficit of the season.
• The Utes move to 8-1 on the year.
• Jordan Loveridge scores a career-high 27 points and grabs seven rebounds.
Utah 74,Idaho State 66
IDAHO ST. (3-3)
Sanchez 7-10 2-2 19, Solarin 2-6 4-6 8, Hatchett 6-12 3-5 15, Hansen 5-14 1-1 14, Preh 0-0 0-0 0, Hall 1-5 0-0 3, Tyler 2-7 0-0 4, Smith 1-2 0-2 3.
Totals 24-56 10-16 66.
Onwas 0-0 0-0 0, Lenz 0-1 2-2 2, Taylor 3-8 0-0 9, Loveridge 10-14 3-5 27, Wright 5-9 5-7 15, Van Dyke 0-1 0-0 0, Fields 0-0 0-0 0, Tucker 4-7 0-0 12, Ogbe 1-1 0-0 2, Bachynski 2-2 3-4 7, Olsen 0-0 0-0 0.
Totals 25-43 13-18 74.
HalftimeIdaho St. 37-28. 3-Point GoalsIdaho St. 8-16 (Sanchez 3-5, Hansen 3-8, Smith 1-1, Hall 1-2), Utah 11-22 (Tucker 4-6, Loveridge 4-7, Taylor 3-7, Wright 0-1, Van Dyke 0-1). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsIdaho St. 30 (Hatchett, Solarin 8), Utah 29 (Loveridge 7). AssistsIdaho St. 12 (Sanchez 5), Utah 17 (Taylor, Wright 5). Total FoulsIdaho St. 16, Utah 14. A8,138.