FORT WORTH, Texas It took clear until February, but the Utah basketball team finally picked up a road victory with a hard-fought 70-65 win over TCU Saturday night at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum.
Before Saturday, the Utes only win away from home came against Virginia on a neutral court at the San Juan Shootout in Puerto Rico. But the Utes overcame a season-high 25 turnovers to improve to 8-14 and 3-6 in Mountain West Conference play.
"It's been frustrating coming out on the road and coming so close and not getting the win, but we finally got one," said Ricky Johns, who led the Utes with 18 points. "We turned the ball over 25 times and still got the win. It goes back to playing defense and that's what we've worked on since the BYU game."
Ute coach Ray Giacoletti knew it wasn't the prettiest game of the year, but he wasn't worried about it.
"We've had a lot more aesthetically pleasing games and haven't won," said Giacoletti. "But we played hard tonight, played defense and boxed out. That's all we talked about before the game."
The 25 turnovers? No big deal.
Giacoletti said all he preached before the game was playing hard, playing tough defense and boxing out and his team did that, holding the Horned Frogs to 41.5 percent shooting, while outrebounding them 35 to 23.
"When you do those things, it's living proof that you can turn the ball over 25 times and still win the game," Giacoletti said.
Besides another solid game from Johns, who tied his career-high in points, the Utes got 15 point from Johnnie Bryant, 13 points and 10 rebounds from Luke Nevill and a career-best 10 points from Daniel Deane off the bench.
Brent Hackett led all scorers with 22 points and Kevin Langford added 21 for the Horned Frogs, who fell into the MWC basement at 2-7 with their seventh straight loss.
The Utes came out fast and led nearly the whole game.
They fell behind briefly at 26-22 when TCU ran off nine straight points, but scored 10 straight of their own and took a 36-29 halftime lead.
Early in the second half, with Deane playing in place of Nevill, who had three fouls, the Utes pushed the lead to 13 at 47-34. Then they went into one of their scoring droughts and didn't score a field goal for nearly seven minutes as TCU pulled within two at 54-52 with 7:29 left.
Bryant hit a big 3-pointer and Johns followed with a pair of baskets to push the lead back to seven and after a bank shot by Johns, it was 64-56 with 3:23 left.
The Utes got stuck at 64 and lost both Deane and Shaun Green to fouls and with 1:05 left, and the Frogs cut the lead to one at 64-63 after the Utes were called with a 10-second violation.
Then came the play of the game.
Nevill took the ball near the top of the key and sent a perfect bounce pass to Johns cutting to the basket for a layup to make it 66-63 with 44 seconds left.
"It's one of our plays and we work on it all the time," said Nevill. "He made an excellent cut and was wide open."
"They were overplaying on the perimeter and so I cut to the basket and was wide open," said Johns.
At the earlier game in Salt Lake when TCU won 71-68, the Frogs clinched the game with four free throws by Ryan Wall in the final 30 seconds.
This time Bryant returned the favor with four free throws in the final 23 seconds.
For the game, the Utes sank 22 of 26 free throws compared to 13 of 24 for TCU.The Utes have one game this week, Wednesday night at home against Colorado State and then have the weekend off.