PULLMAN, Wash. — Utah’s late-season rise continued Thursday night with a 70-58 victory at Washington. The triumph extended the Utes’ winning streak to three games and gave them a second road win this year over a team with a top-50 RPI.
“We knew this game was big time for when it comes to March and this will be a great win to add to our résumé. We’re just trying to enjoy the moment,” said Utah senior Tyler Rawson. “We only have four Pac-12 games left. It’s flying by. So we’re just trying to work hard every day and continue to put ourselves in the best position for March Madness.”
The Utes (16-9, 8-6) moved into sole possession of fourth place in the Pac-12 with Thursday’s outcomes.
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak acknowledged the magnitude of the game in Seattle.
“You get what you earn and you earn what you get. Don’t expect luck or bounces or anything, this is that time of year to close out strong,” he said. “So it’s still one game, but certainly a big win for us in all those discussions and I think we’re playing some pretty good basketball.”
It didn’t necessarily start out that way at Washington. The Utes trailed 32-24 at halftime.
“It’s amazing how well we’ve been together these last couple of weeks,” said senior forward David Collette. “We’ve all been here picking each other up, encouraging each other and that’s all it takes.”
Collette noted that the players talked before the coaches came into the locker room at the break, trying to fix the obvious things that were going wrong.
“Hey, we played bad, we didn’t knock down a lot of shots,” Collette said. “We’re going to get them in the second half.’”
Great camaraderie, he explained, is keeping the team going at this point.
Rawson had similar thoughts. He noted that the crowd was rocking at Alaska Airlines Arena and “you could definitely feel the pressure.” The Utes just took things one possession at a time, Rawson added, and it started on the defensive end.
While Utah upped its shooting from 27.3 percent (9 of 33) in the first half to 70 percent (14 of 20) in the second, Washington’s numbers dropped from 47.6 percent to 36.7 over the final 20 minutes.
The Utes built a pair of 15-point leads down the stretch. Collette finished with a game-high 22 points, while Rawson added 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Krystkowiak noted that the halftime decision wasn’t to change much after the first half. He liked Utah’s zone attack. Problem was, shots weren’t falling early.
“Sometimes you panic. We just stayed with it, kept trusting each other and some shots went in. It was amazing,” said Krystkowiak, who emphasized it was a good game for the Utes.
Now comes the encore, Saturday at Washington State (7 p.m., ESPN2). The game looks a lot more challenging after the Cougars upset Colorado, 73-69, for their second conference win of the season.
• • •
Utah (16-9, 8-6)
at Washington State (10-15, 2-11)
Beasley Coliseum, Pullman
Saturday, 7 p.m. (MT)
Radio: ESPN 700AM