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Utah basketball sweeps Washington trip with a win over the Cougars

PULLMAN, Wash. — Utah earned another Pac-12 road sweep with a 77-70 win at Washington State. The broom, as it were, was only used off-and-on before a sparse crowd at Beasley Coliseum.

It was hardly Quidditch on “Harry Potter Night” at the arena, even if did kind of start out that way — at least for the Utes.

After three lead changes and one tie, Utah pulled away with a 17-0 outburst to take a commanding 33-13 advantage in the first half. It proved to be more than enough to withstand a late charge by Washington State.

“I know it was a nice stretch. We did a good job of executing some man offense, shared the ball really well — a couple of loose balls went our way,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “It was really perfect and then we ran into the 1-3-1 half court trap and things kind of came to a screeching halt.”

Krystkowiak gave Washington State coach Ernie Kent credit for switching things up.

“It’s a curveball and we didn’t adjust very well,” Krystkowiak continued. “(But) we had enough poise in the second half to get through it.”

Justin Bibbins finished with a game-high 24 points as the Utes prevailed on the road again, two nights after topping Washington in Seattle. Gabe Bealer added 18 points and Tyler Rawson posted a double-double with 15 points and 15 rebounds as the Utes won their fourth consecutive game overall.

“It was a great win for us,” Krystkowiak said. “It’s hard to win on the road, extremely hard to win on the road.”

Five Utes scored during the decisive early stretch. Bealer and Bibbins fueled the offense with six and five points, respectively. The defense, meanwhile, held Washington State scoreless for more than six minutes. The Cougars, in fact, managed just two free throws over a drought of nearly seven minutes without a field goal.

Washington State, though, managed to get on track and cut Utah’s lead to 35-28 in the final minute of the half.

The Utes responded with their eighth 3-pointer before the break — and third by Rawson — to lead by 10 at the intermission,

Rawson had a team-high 11 points in the opening half. Bealer, who also made three early 3-point shots, and Bibbins had nine apiece. Utah shot 53.8 percent (14 of 26) from the field, while Washington State managed just 28.6 percent (8 of 28) accuracy.

In the second half, the Cougars clawed back into contention and closed the gap to four twice in the final 1:43. The Utes held on with Bibbins scored four points and Parker Van Dyke adding a free throw in a 5-2 burst over the last 26 seconds.

“The first half, we definitely went on a run. We made a lot of shots. A lot of them were wide open and we were able to find the gaps in their zone,” Rawson said. “And for the second half, it was a heavyweight battle. It felt like at times our defenses were b both just locked down and then towards the end we were trading punches of making baskets.”

Rawson explained that it was necessarily a “hold on” for the Utes, but rather locking down the defense — knowing the offense would present itself.

Utah (17-9, 9-6) returns to the Huntsman Center for the final three games of the regular season. The Utes host UCLA on Thursday, USC on Saturday, and Colorado on March 3. They’re currently in position for a top four finish and a first-round bye in the upcoming Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas.


Twitter: @DirkFacer