Utah basketball: Depth leads Utes to easy win over Texas State
First there was the 3-pointer from the wing. A few possessions later, Brandon Taylor knocked down a three from the other wing. Finally, Utah's sophomore guard shook Phil Hawkins with a wicked crossover, stepped back, and drained another.
The prevailing thought around the Utes centers on Delon Wright and Jordan Loveridge, the dominant opinion being that Utah will go only as far as those two take it.
But the Utes this season have developed depth to where a number of guys can hurt an opponent on a given night, and on Thursday night it was Taylor's turn. His game-high 18 points propelled his team to a 69-50 win over Texas State before 7,857 at the Huntsman Center.
It wasn't a pretty win. There were plenty of times the Utes seemed offensively inept. But Larry Krystkowiak's team is nothing if not consistent defensively. And when Utah struggled to shoot the ball, it's ability to defend the Bobcats served as a holdover until the offense finally came around.
"I thought I was being more aggressive and that it was my time in a way," Taylor said. "It's more that the coaches have told me to keep shooting. They wanted me to stop turning down open looks at the basket. I've been in kind of a slump lately, but the shot felt good tonight."
Utah now moves to 10-1 on the season, the fastest the program has gotten to double-digit wins since 1998. Loveridge notched his fifth double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Wright scored 13 points, and made all five of his field goal attempts. But Taylor was the catalyst. He scored 13 of his points after halftime. He sparked a game-changing 17-4 run with his first 3-pointer of the half and he was the one guy Texas State didn't have an answer for.
There were tough moments for the Utes in this one. Similar to the win over Idaho State last week, Utah fought through large stretches where it played with a noticeable lack of energy. The Utes rotation featured a revolving door, as every scholarship player except for Marko Kovacevic saw time, with Krystkowiak evaluating freshmen like Ahmad Fields and Kenneth Ogbe, both of whom have seen limited time this season.
"Those two have played well for us in practice," Krystkowiak said. "They've given us a lift with their play in practice and I thought both deserved to get onto the floor and get a little sweat going tonight. We have a long Pac-12 season ahead of us, and we're going to need to have some guys raise their games a little bit."
In all, 11 of the 13 players on the roster got into the game against the Bobcats. Besides Texas State cutting a big lead to 38-34 early in the second-half, Utah was never really threatened. The Utes simply did what was needed to win the game by a comfortable margin, no more and no less.
"I thought the run we had in the second-half was needed," Loveridge said. "We finally put some stops together and had some good possessions. We played with some energy and that helped us."
R Brandon Taylor leads all scorers with 18 points.
• Utah moves to 10-1 on the season.
• A 17-4 run in the second half puts the game out of reach.