SEATTLE — After Jason Washburn established Utah’s offense on the interior, Brandon Taylor brought a spark of quickness and creativity off the bench.
Couple that duo with some sticky defense and a bit of poise in the closing minutes and the Runnin’ Utes finally solved winning on the road in the Pac-12 Conference.
“The guys came out with the focus from start to finish of winning each possession and that was kind of the message,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “Instead of thinking about the game and the result was getting stuck in the moment for every possession and we had some great performances by three guys that gave us a big lift.”
Washburn scored 14 of his 18 points in the first half, Taylor added a career-high 19 off the bench and Utah won its first Pac-12 road game in two seasons as a member of the conference with a stunning 74-65 win over Washington on Saturday night.
The Utes (9-9, 1-5 Pac-12) were winless in conference play this season and last won a Pac-12 game on Feb. 25, 2012 against Stanford, used hot shooting and a smart defensive plan to take down the Huskies and hand Washington its first conference loss. Washington was trying to start 5-0 in conference play for the first time since 1984.
Instead the Huskies (12-6, 4-1) were left shaking their heads at their execution in the closing minutes that ruined what Washington accomplished winning its first three conference games on the road.
“Give them a lot of credit because they sliced us up,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. “But we just took a step back. That isn’t the type of defense, the level of defense that we’ve been playing.
Washington leading scorer C.J. Wilcox did not score for the first 27 minutes and finished with 14. Andrew Andrews led Washington with 17 points, Scott Suggs added 12, but the Huskies shot a miserable 37 percent for the game and made costly errors in the final five minutes.
Utah won despite leading scorer Jarred DuBois being a non-factor offensively. DuBois averaged 13 points coming into the night, but took just two shots and finished with five points. His main responsibility in the first half was chasing around Wilcox. He was successful as Wilcox had just two shots in the first half, but DuBois later had foul trouble that limited his minutes.
Taylor more than made up for the quiet night from DuBois. Taylor made 6 of 10 shots, easily surpassing his previous career high of 14 points.
“He’s got a little moxie to him and his shooting ability, he’s probably the best shooter we have on our team,” Krystkowiak said.
Just as important was freshman Jordan Loveridge, who added 17 points, including some key baskets in the final five minutes. No basket for Loveridge was bigger than outworking Desmond Simmons for an offensive rebound and basket with 3:25 left that stemmed Washington’s final run.
“I know my teammates and we have a good team. As long as we didn’t get sped up or rattled or anything and stayed under control we’d be good,” Loveridge said.
Utah entered the night eighth in the conference in field goal percentage and 10th in scoring offense. The Utes shot 60 percent for the game and scored their most points against any Pac-12 team in their two seasons in the conference. Washburn was 6 of 7 in the first half and 8 of 11 shooting for the game.
“I was getting the ball in my sweet spot and was making good moves and the ball was falling for me,” Washburn said.
Wilcox finally scored with 12:59 left hitting a 3-pointer from the top of the key, but while the Huskies leading scorer was heating up, Utah was still scoring at the other end. The Utes scored on four straight possessions, including five points from Taylor and led 50-39 with 10:45 left after a jump ball possession went to Utah.
Glen Dean hit a baseline jumper, Washburn scored wide open on the interior and Taylor knocked down a step back jumper late in the shot clock to give Utah its biggest lead at 56-41 with 8:21 left.
Washington tried to put together a final run getting the deficit under 10 for the first time in nearly seven minutes when Wilcox converted a three-point play with 4:39 left. Andrews followed with a 3-pointer and the Utah lead was down to six, but Loveridge then had his rebound basket and moments later added a jumper.
Washington was unable to get closer than six in the final 2 minutes.
“We had open look, after open look, after open look, but we can control more how we guard and that’s why I’m frustrated with that part of it,” Romar said.