SALT LAKE CITY — All things considered, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak liked what he saw in the Huntsman Center Thursday night.
And with good reason.
The Utes picked up their inaugural Pac-12 victory with a 62-60 overtime win over Washington State. Senior guard "Jiggy" Watkins hit the game-winning shot with 3.3 seconds left to play, capping all scoring in a competitive contest featuring eight ties and seven lead changes.
"It couldn't have been scripted any better for our first game," Krystkowiak said after Utah prevailed in its first Pac-12 home game.
The Utes made history just five days after a 40-point setback at Colorado. Krystkowiak said the Utes tried to take shortcuts in that game.
This time, however, he noted that they did things right.
Krystkowiak was pleased with how everyone came back from the 73-33 debacle in Boulder to have a great week of practice and preparation, as good as he's seen in his first season at the helm.
Outlasting Washington State validated the focus.
"We had some warriors, man," Krystkowiak said while noting that five of the seven players who saw action for Utah logged 31 minutes or more.
Watkins headlined a tight rotation with 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists. His final basket — a jumper from inside the paint — proved to be the final difference.
The confident New Yorker said there was "no doubt" it was going in.
"All I had to do was stop," he explained. "(The defense) kept going so I just had to rise up and take that shot."
Watkins made a similar shot near the end of regulation to force overtime. He spent a lot of time in practice this week stopping for short jumpers on drives to the basket.
Both came after Watkins left for the game for a time in the second half with a sore knee.
"It didn't matter how much pain I was in," Watkins said. "I'm a tough kid. I'll work through it."
And he did.
However, there were other standouts as well.
Chris Hines made big plays offensively and defensively down the stretch. His jumper with 45 seconds remaining tied the game at 60. He later forced a turnover on Washington State's attempted response to Watkins' last shot.
Jason Washburn and Dijon Farr finished with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Cedric Martin topped the Utes with eight rebounds.
"It was really exciting for all of us," Hines said after Utah snapped a two-game skid.
Watkins threw the ball into the air as time expired and the team huddled together on the floor before heading to the locker room.
Krystkowiak said things were rather subdued at that point.
"I think we did most of the celebrating on the floor," he noted. "By the time they got to the locker room everybody needed a 20 (-second timeout) I think."
There's little time for rest. The Utes host Washington Saturday at noon.
"This win took a lot off our shoulders," Martin acknowledged. "We've got to stay humble with it and we just need to prepare for Saturday."
Utah held a halftime lead for just the third time this season. The Utes shot 50 percent from the field and played consistent defense in building a 29-23 advantage. Things didn't go as well after the break as Washington State quickly climbed back into contention. Brock Motum paced the Cougars with a game-high 27 points on 10-of-12 shooting. He also grabbed eight boards in the game.
"We played better in the second half and with better effort," said Washington State coach Ken Bone. "But when you let a team like Utah hang around, they get more confident and they bury a couple and gain some momentum on the home court. That is what happens."
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