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Utes return home, top Stanford

SALT LAKE CITY — Although it took a little bit of time to do so, the 11th-ranked Utah Utes made themselves at home in the Huntsman Center once again. They won their 16th consecutive game in the building with a 75-59 victory over Stanford, overcoming an early deficit in the process.

The Utes used a 21-2 run over the first and second halves to break from a tie game. The outburst gave them a 48-29 lead with 15:11 to play, and the Cardinal never drew closer than 10 the rest of the way.

“The first half was kind of punch, counter-punch,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “We couldn’t really get any momentum, and the second half it started with getting some stops and getting out in transition.”

The Utes scored the final six points of the opening half on a basket by Delon Wright and two shots from Dallin Bachynski. They added a 15-2 burst after the intermission to put the game out of reach. Jordan Loveridge fueled the latter with seven points.

Krystkowiak said a few things in the motion offense were tweaked in the second half. The new wrinkles, he explained, accounted for most of the adjustments made at halftime.

Stanford capitalized on three offensive rebounds and two Utah turnovers en route to an early 10-4 lead. The Utes bounced back with a variety of contributions.

Wright finished with a team-high 15 points, while Bachynski scored a season-high 13. Brekkott Chapman and Jordan Loveridge each finished with 12 as Utah (19-4, 9-2) moved into sole possession of the conference lead with Arizona — at least until Friday night when the Wildcats (20-3, 8-2) play at Washington.

Utah’s defense, particularly on Pac-12 scoring leader Chasson Randle, proved to be pivotal. Randle, who came averaging 20.3 points, missed his first eight shots from the field and was held scoreless until making two free throws with 10:38 left to play. The senior wound up with 10 points but did make a field goal until just 6:23 remained.

“Utah did a good job. They paid a lot of attention to him. Their defense was really sound,” said Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins. “It was just one of those games where you give them credit for how they defended and we move on. It was a tough loss. But every loss is tough in conference.”

Brandon Taylor drew the primary defensive assignment on Randle for the Utes. Kenneth Ogbe and Wright were also involved.

“We just were trying to make him take tough shots as best as we could,” Krystkowiak said.

Stanford (16-8, 7-5) wound up shooting 37.7 percent (20 of 53) from the field and was held 15 points below its season average.

“The thing that helped us out was just playing great defense,” said Wright, who finished with four steals.

Utah's offense also performed well. The Utes shot 49 percent from the field. Their bench outscored Stanford 33-5.

The Utes, who are playing at home for the first time since Jan. 25, return to action Sunday against California (6:30 p.m., ESPNU). The Bears (16-9, 6-6) defeated Colorado 68-61 Thursday night in Boulder.


Twitter: @DirkFacr