SALT LAKE CITY — After shooting an abysmal 29 percent from the field in their last game and going a combined 3 for 29 from 3-point range in the previous two games in Washington, the Utah Utes were in desperate need of a cure to their shooting woes Thursday night.
Sophomore forward Dakarai Tucker came to the rescue by scoring a career-high 18 points and sinking four 3-pointers from the exact same spot on the floor to spark the 84-66 Ute victory.
“Dakarai made some threes, which was really helpful,’’ said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “I’m really happy for him. He’s spent a lot of time in the gym. He did a great job.’’
“I was just shooting with confidence,’’ Tucker said. “I’ve been in a shooting slump, so I’ve been coming in nights and shooting.’’
With the Utes down five with under eight minutes in the first half, Tucker scored 10 points the rest of the half to help give the Utes a 39-36 halftime lead.
First he sank a 20-footer from the right corner, with his foot on the line. Then after Brandon Taylor sank a 12-footer in the lane, Tucker hit back-to-back threes from same right corner to stake the Utes a 30-25 lead. Then later he hit a pair of free throws for the Utes.
In the second half, Tucker opened the scoring with a 3-pointer from the right corner and a couple of minutes later hit a three from — where else — the right corner as the Utes increased their lead to double digits. From there, the Utes increased their lead to finish with a comfortable 18-point victory.
“That was my spot in high school,’’ said Tucker, explaining all the right-corner threes.
Krystkowiak said it also had to do with the Utes’ zone offense and echoed Tucker, saying, “he’s shooting a lot of corner threes — that’s his spot.’’
Actually the Utes only shot 6 for 21 from 3-point range on the night, but Tucker's four treys came at key times and they shot 49.2 percent overall, thanks to a bunch of baskets inside, which opened up after Tucker’s threes.
BLACKOUT: This was the third “blackout game” for Utah basketball, where the fans were encouraged to wear black to the game. The Utes were 1-1 in the previous two blackouts, winning 62-60 over Washington State in 2012 and losing 57-53 to UCLA last year.
The Utes didn’t quite match their attendance from the first two Pac-12 games, but did have close to their season average with 9,231 fans.
UTE NOTES: Utah plays UCLA Saturday at 2 p.m. The Bruins improved to 14-3 with a 69-56 win over No. 21 Colorado Thursday night. Last year, USC beat the Utes in the only regular-season game between the two, 76-59. The Utes returned the favor at the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas, winning 69-66. The last Utah win over USC at home came in 1995 by an 84-49 margin. Before Thursday, the Utes had won 16 of 18 games at the Huntsman Center, including 12 of 13 this year. The Utes came into the game ranked first in the nation in scoring margin at +20.9 . USC lost to Utah State 78-65 in Logan its first game of the year.
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