SALT LAKE CITY — Eight proved to be enough for the Utah Utes. They ended an eight-game losing skid with a 71-59 victory over Idaho State Friday night in the Huntsman Center.
"It certainly feels great," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said while praising his team's effort. "I really feel like we've had a couple of great weeks of practice."
It's a case in point, he added, that when you play hard good things happen.
Cedric Martin scored 19 points, Jason Washburn added 17, and Dijon Farr chipped in 16 as the Utes improved to 2-8 with their first victory since a 58-55 decision over San Diego Christian College on Nov. 14.
"We're all competitive. We want to win games. The guys worked really hard and deserved to feel good," Krystkowiak said. "We haven't been in the winner's circle a whole lot this year. So I'm going to get a little sleep and feel good about what we accomplished."
Krystkowiak gave partial credit to his favorite Starbucks stop on the way to the arena. He asked them for a "lucky" cup of coffee to take with him.
"I went there at night and finally figured out the key ingredient to getting a win," Krystkowiak said, adding it will now be part of his pregame routine. "Absolutely."
The first-year Utah coach went on to note he was really happy for his guys and the people who support the team.
"We battled and it was great," he said.
Idaho State coach Joe O'Brien saw things differently.
"We were getting backdoor layups and moving the ball well," he said. "Then just all of a sudden we stopped doing everything."
Despite trailing the Bengals for most of the game, the Utes rallied midway through the second half and took the lead for good on a 3-pointer by Kareem Storey that made it 51-48 with 9:18 remaining.
"Words can't even describe it. You know what I mean? How we won and after such a long road, getting the win, it's a lot of emotion just built up," Washburn said. "It felt so good. It felt even better because of how we did it — just pure team effort and just all-out hustle."
Idaho State held a 34-31 advantage at halftime. The Bengals overcame an early deficit with runs of 7-0 and 14-6 to build a lead that grew to nine at one point.
Utah was held without a field goal for 8:26 in the midst of the stretch — only scoring on a pair of free throws by Jason Washburn — as Idaho State pulled ahead comfortably — for a time.
The Utes did, however, climb back into contention before the intermission. They closed the gap to 26-24 on a basket by Josh Watkins with 2:09 remaining in the half.
The Bengals responded with four straight points to thwart the threat, including a late 5-2 Utah spurt to close out the first 20 points.
"With the exception of a couple of blips in that first half, I thought we carried over playing really hard," Krystkowiak said.
And it paid off.
The Utes return to action Monday at home against Portland. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.