SEATTLE — Just when it seemed like the Runnin’ Utes’ conference losing streak would march on and on, the unexpected happened.
Standing 0-5 in the Pac-12, conventional wisdom suggested the Utes would leave Alaska Airlines Arena after a meeting Saturday with the streaking Washington Huskies, who entered with a perfect 4-0 league record, with a 0-6 record.
Flipping the script, the Utes broke through in a big way.
Utah produced a dominant defensive performance and made huge baskets at the other end to beat Washington, 74-65, inside Alaska Airlines Arena.
Senior center Jason Washburn scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds to help lead the way, and a number of players followed behind him. Freshman guard Brandon Taylor had a game-high 19 points and six assists, and fellow freshman Jordan Loveridge added 17 points and five rebounds.
Utah shot a terrific 60.4 percent from the field and held Washington to just 37.3 percent shooting.
In addition to snapping their five-game losing streak, the Utes earned a Pac-12 road victory for the first time in school history and finally put to rest their conference road losing streak at 13. Since beating New Mexico in the Pit back on Feb. 11, 2011, the Utes had been defeated in 13 consecutive road games — 15 including neutral conference games.
As it played out, the Utes built a big lead — and then held on down the stretch in the second half.
Leading by eight at the start of the second half, Washburn and Co. came out poised and collected.
Cedric Martin scored the first points of the second half on a jumper to make it 35-25, and Washburn added two more a minute later to increase Utah’s lead to 12 points.
Utah ultimately led by as many as 15 points after a Taylor long 2-pointer with 8:15 to go before hanging on down the stretch.
Utah native C.J. Wilcox tried to help the Huskies come back, but neither the former Pleasant Grove star nor the rest of his teammates had enough firepower to make that happen.
Washington closed its deficit to as few as six points but didn’t get any closer.
Loveridge made a couple of huge baskets and other Utes made big plays to help Utah earn the conference victory.
In the first half, the Utes certainly did everything needed to put an end to their much-ballyhooed conference road losing streak. They jumped out early and ultimately took a 33-25 advantage into the halftime locker room.
Washburn was white-hot during the early going inside Alaska Airlines Arena.
He scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds in only the first five minutes to help give the Utes a quick 12-2 lead.
Washburn went on to make his first six shots and finished the first half with 14 points (6-of-7 shooting) and six rebounds.
Meanwhile, guys in black Utah jerseys made plays around him.
Loveridge added nine points during the first half, which Utah led by as many 13 points before gladly taking an eight-point advantage into halftime, while Taylor added eight points and two assists.
The Utes held Washington to frosty 11-of-31 shooting (35.5 percent) in the opening half of play, while shooting the ball very well themselves. Utah made 14 of 24 baskets in the first 20 minutes for 58.3 shooting from the field.
Making baskets is something Utah native Wilcox didn’t do in the first half. The Utah native only took two shots in the first half — he missed both — and was held scoreless until 12:59 remained in the second half. He finished with 14 points on 4-of-11 shooting.
Andrew Andrews led Washington offensively with 17 points.
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