SALT LAKE CITY — Except for a final 3-point try that drew nothing but air, Tyler Rawson would have put his name in the Ute record books for the best 3-point shooting night ever by a Utah basketball player in Sunday night’s win over Washington State.
Rawson had made six straight 3-pointers, mostly from straight out front when he attempted one more with 7:15 left in the game. This one was short and to the left, but he made up for it 12 seconds later when teammate David Collette found him in the lane for a short jumper.
So what happened on that one miss?
“I got a little too excited on that one,” Rawson said with a smile afterward.
As it was, the senior from American Fork finished the night 6 of 7 from 3-point range, one of the better 3-point shooting nights in Ute history. If he would have just not taken that last shot or if he had made it, he would have topped the 3-point field-goal percentage record held by four former Utes. Shaun Green, Phil Cullen, Phil Dixon and Byron Wilson each went 5 for 5 from 3-point range in 2006, 2000, 1993 and 1992, respectively. Johnnie Bryant, currently an assistant coach with the Utah Jazz, still holds the school record for most 3-pointers made in a game with 8 (vs. TCU in 2008).
“The hoop was a little bit more open than it was last week, for sure,” said Rawson, who came into the game shooting 36.6 percent from long range. “The other guys did a great job of finding me and I was able to convert. The key for me was just staying confident and I was happy I was able to bounce back this week.”
A key contributor to Rawson’s 3-point barrage was point guard Justin Bibbins, who had been the Utes’ top scorer in five of the first seven Pac-12 games. With the WSU defense paying more attention to him, Bibbins turned into a playmaker and dished out a career-high 12 assists in addition to scoring 13 points.
“The floor just opened up,” Bibbins said. “They collapsed a lot on me when I drove to the paint and I was able to hit guys and the assists came because my teammates made open shots. It was nice to kick out and see other people hit threes.”
Coach Larry Krystkowiak acknowledged that he set up more plays for Rawson because of his hot hand. He said Rawson has helped the team in many ways this year, but on Sunday night he decided “ride with that guy” rather than try to get touches for everyone.
“Ty’s been a warrior,” he said. “Of all our guys, he’s kind of an unsung guy. With assists-to-turnovers (ratio), he’s one of the best in the league. He’s a passing four-man, he’s leading us in rebounding. He’s a capable shooter, great defender and takes charges.”
Krystkowiak also said Rawson is one guy on the team not to miss a practice all year, going back to the foreign trip in August.
“He’s been the steady Eddie of the group. He’s just unassuming and goes about his business — he’s an easy guy to cheer for.”
UTE NOTES: The Utes aren’t halfway through the 18-game Pac-12 schedule, but they’ll play Arizona State and Arizona again this week, Thursday at Phoenix and Saturday at Tucson . . . Next week they’ll play at Colorado and return home to play Stanford and Cal for the first and only times this season . . . The Utes are 12-7 overall and tied for fifth in the Pac-12 at 4-4 with UCLA and Colorado.