SALT LAKE CITY — Less than 48 hours after a heartbreaking loss to 10th-ranked Oregon, the Utah Utes bounced back with an 80-69 win over Oregon State in the Huntsman Center.
“I’d be lying if I said it’s not big,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak noted after the Utes improved to 12-2 overall and 1-1 in Pac-12 play. “ ... It certainly would have been really hard had we started out 0-2. It makes for a long week.”
Speaking of long, Utah hit a season-high 12 shots from beyond the arc to build a big lead and then withstand a comeback bid by Oregon State. Brandon Taylor was 5 of 6 from 3-point range and finished with a career-high 23 points. The sophomore acknowledged he was feeling it, as were his teammates, from the perimeter. The Utes missed only 10 of their long-range shots.
“It was important, real important,” said Taylor, who pointed out that the Utes made only three of their 19 3-point attempts against Oregon. “We’re a pretty good 3-point shooting team and we displayed that tonight. We just shot open shots tonight and knocked them down.”
Trailing 17-15 midway through the first half, Utah opened an 18-0 run by hitting four 3-pointers. Taylor made two of them, while Jordan Loveridge and Delon Wright added the others.
“Those 3s add up fast and it helps you get on some of those runs,” Krystkowiak said. “We’ve got a lot of confidence in our shooters.”
Following the barrage of 3-pointers, Utah added a pair of baskets by Wright and a bucket by Jeremy Olsen to take a 33-17 lead with 5:49 remaining in the half.
“Obviously to go on an 18-0 run you have to score and maybe that’s what everyone is remembering,” Krystkowiak said. “But I know our defensive intensity was pretty incredible at that point. We had some blocked shots at the rim. Some guys stayed in some plays.”
The plan, he explained, was to limit Oregon State’s offensive rebounds and get out and run. Building energy before the season-best crowd of 14,044 was a big factor considering that the Beavers played at 20th-ranked Colorado late Thursday night.
“It started with our stops and that led to that run for sure,” Krystkowiak said.
Although Oregon State managed to cut the deficit to 41-32 by halftime and 63-60 with just under 6 1/2 minutes left to play, the Beavers were never able to overcome the decisive early stretch.
“Right from the start, we looked like we weren’t prepared to play. We had a great game plan coming out at the start of the game. We got them to turn the ball over three times and we don’t cash in on it and that just set the tone for the rest of the game,” said Oregon State coach Craig Robinson. “We never really recovered from that because even when (Utah) got the big lead and we cut it down, our turnovers and our lack of focus got us back into trouble again."
The Utes forced 15 miscues by game’s end. They responded to Oregon State’s late charge that closed the gap to 63-60 by reeling off seven straight points — five from Taylor and a dunk by Olsen. Utah went on to hold a double-digit lead for a majority of the final 4:18 of play.
“That was Brandon. I could lie to you and say I drew up all kinds of fancy stuff, rubbed my fingers together and created all this magic. But Brandon, he just had that look in his eye,” said Krystkowiak, who credited Taylor for being the best shooter on the team. “At the end of the day Brandon was the one that got us going again.”
Taylor, who also had a game-high eight assists, noted that it just felt good to take care of the ball and get good shots. Utah’s starting backcourt of Taylor and Wright combined for 14 assists and just one turnover.
“We got great leadership from our guards,” said Krystkowiak, who was especially pleased that 23 of the Utes’ 29 baskets were assisted.
In addition to Taylor, Utah had four players score in double figures. Olsen and Wright finished with 14 apiece, while Dakarai Tucker and Jordan Loveridge had 13 and 10, respectively.
The bottom line, though, was all about bouncing back.
“It was real important. We were so close last game,” Taylor said. “So for this game it was like losing was not an option for us. We have to get the victory and that’s what we did.”
Wright acknowledged, however, that there was a little uncertainty about how the team would respond after the last-second loss to Oregon on Thursday. In the end, though, things obviously worked out for the Utes.
“We responded real well,” Wright said. “We started off a little slow, but I think we showed a lot of heart coming back the next game and beating a good team.”
Utah now prepares for its first Pac-12 road game — Wednesday at Washington.
“It’s fun to be where we are right now,” Krystkowiak said. “Now we get to head out on a really tough road trip up to the Pacific Northwest.”
The Utes visit Washington State next Sunday.