The win was important for confidence.
It was important for a little momentum. It was important simply because Utah would loathe to go on the road for a week after two losses at the Huntsman Center.
Utah at WashingtonWednesday, 9 p.m. MST
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Being away from home can be lonely for even the best teams. It gets a little colder and a little harder when you aren’t doing it under the best of circumstance. And that’s why the Utes’ 80-69 win over Oregon State was so important. They will travel to Seattle on Wednesday to face Washington, and to Pullman on Sunday for Washington State, and do so after tasting victory.
A win over the Huskies would put Utah over the .500 mark for the first time in its three-year membership in the Pac-12. That’s how big the matchup could be for the Utes.
"We have to go on the road and hopefully there will be a carryover from this performance," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "This league is so good that it can kind of snowball on you. We started 0-2 on the road last year and both games went down to the wire. Now we get a win at home and it does a lot for us mentally."
Last season, the Utes got their first road win in the Pac-12 with a 74-65 victory over Washington. It was Brandon Taylor’s first career start at point guard, and he scored 19.
When asked, Taylor said he’s not thinking about last season. He said it’s the past and he wants it to stay in the past.
"It’s something we can’t worry about," Taylor said. "We have to think about now and what we have to do now."
The numbers away from home haven’t been good for Utah. The Utes are just 2-23 on the road in the past two years. They have been blown out at places like Oregon and Washington State — teams they should be competitive with on paper. They played well against Washington last season away from home but didn’t fare well against anyone else. They lost to Boise State on the road in their only trip of this year.
That’s what makes these two games so important. Utah’s been passing test after test and answering questions on whether it’s indeed for real as a competitor within the Pac-12. A near win over No. 10 Oregon on Thursday night offered a hint. Defeating Oregon State by double digits — on paper a team it should’ve beaten by double digits — served as another hint.
Now, facing an improved Washington team and a Washington State team that’s always difficult to play in Pullman will provide another two challenges.
Are the Utes up to it?
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