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Happy Valentine's Day for Runnin' Utes as Utah clobbers Washington State Cougars 88-47

SALT LAKE CITY — It was happy, happy Valentine’s Day up on the hill.

Jakob Poeltl scored 25 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, made three steals and blocked two shots as the Utah Utes overpowered Washington State 88-47.

“We played pretty well,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, who was especially pleased with the defensive effort that limited the Cougars to 30.6 percent shooting. “I thought some of the changing defenses maybe got them off-kilter a little bit.”

The Utes racked up 11 steals in improving to 19-7 overall and 8-5 in Pac-12 play. They also finished with decisive advantages in numerous other aspects of the game including points in the paint (50-10), points off of turnovers (26-8), second-chance scoring (17-8) and scores off of fast breaks (11-2).

Contributions were plentiful with 11 players seeing at least six minutes of action in Sunday afternoon's rout in the Huntsman Center.

“The game was fun,” Krystkowiak said. “It was nice to get guys in a ball game — some conditioning for some guys that don’t play and some well-deserved rest for some other guys.”

Besides Poeltl, Jordan Loveridge (14), Brekkott Chapman (12) and Kyle Kuzma (10) also scored in double-figures for the Utes. Kuzma also had nine rebounds.

Utah took control of this one early and effectively. The Utes erased a 6-4 deficit with a decisive 17-3 run. Poeltl led the way with 12 points during the outburst. He also contributed to an 11-0 spurt later in the half.

“We always have confidence when we throw it to Jakob,” Loveridge said. “He’s such a great player inside.”

Utah went on to lead 40-21 at intermission. The Utes shot 50 percent from the field and applied the clamps defensively in the first half, forcing 11 turnovers, including seven steals. Washington State made only seven field goals and was outscored 15-4 in points off of turnovers.

Poeltl’s impact extended beyond his game-high 16 points in the opening half. The 7-footer’s presence helped Utah own a 24-2 scoring advantage in the paint. He also had seven rebounds, pacing the Utes to a 19-12 edge on the boards.

More dominance followed in the second half. Poeltl scored six straight points, including a steal and a dunk, to fuel a run of 13 straight points by the Utes that put an already out-of-reach game even more so at 55-24.

Jakob Poeltl makes his case for "Intergalactic Player of the Year".

— Jeremiah Jensen (@JJSportsBeat) February 14, 2016

Utah eventually extended the margin to 41 in the final minute.

“I don’t know if it was the most complete (game) but it was fun to get out and play on both ends,” Loveridge said. “We played both ends of the game and I think that’s why we had the result we had tonight.”

Washington State coach Ernie Kent, whose team dropped an 88-81 double-overtime decision at Colorado on Thursday, noted that the Utes are a very difficult team to play.

“They play so doggone hard,” he explained, adding Utah’s experience and skill set as factors. “They’re big, they're strong, they're physical.”

The Utes take a two-game winning streak on their final road trip of the season. They play at UCLA on Thursday and at USC on Sunday.

Krystkowiak noted that the Southern California trip is tough. The Bruins have size and rebounding ability while the Trojans are playing great right now.

Because the Utes have yet to play either team this season, Krystkowiak acknowledged an additional priority will be placed on scouting and there will be more of a mental side to the preparation.

EXTRA STUFF: The attendance was 11,464 . . . Que Johnson had a team-high 13 points for Washington State. Scoring leader Josh Hawkinson attempted just four shots and finished with four points . . . The Cougars have now lost 11 consecutive games . . . Utah has three home games remaining: Arizona State (Feb. 25), Arizona (Feb. 27) and Colorado (March 5).


Twitter: @DirkFacer