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Runnin’ Utes Instant Analysis: 3-point shooting moves Utah past Stanford

SHARE Runnin’ Utes Instant Analysis: 3-point shooting moves Utah past Stanford

LAS VEGAS — The Pac-12 Conference tournament is underway, and the Utes are on to the semifinals.

Utah faced Stanford late Thursday night in a game that was close in the first half, but the Utes picked up the pace in the second half and went on to win, 80-56.

Why Utah won: The Utes won thanks to the sharpshooting effort by the entire team. The Utes hit 12 of 19 3-point attempts (63.2 percent). Delon Wright led the way from beyond the arc, hitting all four of his attempts.

Turning point: Leading by four, Utah began pulling away with 11 minutes to go. Jordan Loveridge knocked down a jump shot for the first points of a 24-3 run to put the Utes up by 25.

After the run, any momentum for Stanford had been sucked out of the building, and the Utes rolled to the victory.

Grading the teams: Utah's 3-point barrage came at a crucial time with 8 of its 12 makes from beyond the arc coming in the second half. The Utes' accuracy put pressure on Stanford to tighten up on the perimeter, and that allowed Wright to explode into the paint and find the open man.

The 3-point line isn't the only area in which the Utes shot well. They shot 50 percent from the field and made 14 of 18 free throws for 77.8 percent. Wright led the Utes with 20 points and Loveridge and Jakob Poeltl added 18 and 16, respectively.

The Utes moved the ball very smoothly, and the team picked up 16 assists in the game. Wright and Brandon Taylor combined for 10.

Defensively, the Utes locked in on the Cardinal, especially in the second half. They held Stanford to 37.3 percent from the field, including 35.7 percent from the 3-point line. Utah also protected the paint well, blocking six shots.

The Utes lost the turnover battle, however, committing 11 to Stanford's 10.

Utah got to its spots on the floor with ease. The jump shots were falling, the ball movement was smooth and the defense was lockdown. The Utes look ready for Oregon.

Utah Runnin' Utes grade: A

Things were going well for Stanford in the first half. At the break, the Cardinal led by five points, but the moment the Utes started hitting their 3-pointers, it was clear Stanford couldn't keep up.

The Cardinal was held to 37.3 from the field, and against an elite team like Utah, poor shooting can get a team into a hole in a hurry.

Despite going toe to toe with the Utes in the first half, Stanford couldn't match Utah's intensity in the second half. Utah's defensive pressure overwhelmed Stanford, and it forced several poor shots.

Defensively, Stanford couldn't do anything once the Utes started hitting shots from outside. The Cardinal tried closing out tighter on shooters, but that allowed Wright to cut inside the lane. When the defense collapsed on Wright, he would dish it to an open shooter, and when the defense stayed on the shooters, Wright would take it straight to the rim.

Stanford came ready to play in the beginning, and because of its early intensity, it led at the half. That intensity disappeared when Utah gathered momentum, and in the end, the Cardinal was blown out of the building. Utah was the more talented team, and the consistency just wasn't there for Stanford.

Stanford Cardinal grade: C-

Three telling stats:

— The Utes outscored Stanford 46-17 in the second half.

— Of Utah's 12 3-pointers, eight came in the second half.

— Utah's bench outscored Stanford's 12-8.

Up next: Utah will play Oregon in the semifinals Friday night. The teams have met once previously this season, and Oregon won 69-58. The matchup will be broadcast on ESPN and the WatchESPN app.

You can follow Mitch Kunzler on Twitter at @MitchKunzler.