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(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes guard Brandon Taylor (11) drives to the basket as the University of Utah hosts Washington State, NCAA basketball at the Huntsman Center Saturday February 8, 2014 in Salt Lake City.
Utah basketball: Utes turn defense of ASU stars into rout
Men’s basketball » Utah smothers ASU backcourt tandem of Carson and Marshall in 23-point win
First Published Feb 24 2014 01:49 pm • Last Updated Feb 24 2014 11:30 pm

It started with blocked shots. Five in eight possessions.

It continued with forced turnovers. And by the time Arizona State was finally able to take care of the basketball, the Sun Devils simply missed open shots.

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ASU coach Herb Sendek called Sunday night "inexplicable" for his team. If Utah’s coach Larry Krystkowiak were to sum up the Utes’ 86-63 win at the Huntsman Center, "defensive masterpiece" might be an apt description.

"It was all energy," Krystkowiak said. "We had good rotations and guys were covering for others. You can’t have too many guys coming on rotations, or else that leaves things open. We know how good they are off the dribble, so we had to be ready to recover."

Talking about defending Arizona State’s high-powered backcourt of Jahii Carson and Jermaine Marshall sounds easy. Going out and actually doing it is another matter. Carson, entering Sunday’s game, was one of the most dynamic point guards in the country. Marshall — a transfer from Penn State — hasn’t been far behind.

Yet, the Utes smothered both on Sunday at the Huntsman Center. Utah point guard Brandon Taylor fouled out of his first game of the season, but not before he cut off Carson’s driving lanes, made him shoot jumpers and didn’t let him get to the rim. Carson shot 3-for-13 from the field.

Utah forward Princeton Onwas blanketed Marshall, using his strength and athleticism to limit Marshall’s open looks at the basket. With those two locked up, Arizona State had few other offensive options.

"We set the tone early on defensively," Utah guard Delon Wright said. "We showed early on that we weren’t going to just let them get soft shots in the paint."

With nearly a week between games, the Utes get Colorado on Saturday, a senior day game that amounts to a must-win for both teams. The Buffaloes were humiliated by Arizona on Saturday and need a win to bolster their NCAA Tournament at-large hopes. Utah’s simply trying to barge its way into the postseason conversation.

Either way, the Utes played their best all-around game of the season against Arizona State. They will need to do something similar Saturday if they hope to beat a good Colorado team.

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