SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s 60-55 victory over Arizona State left a lot of folks feeling good in the Huntsman Center. The come-from-behind victory was a big step in the right direction for a program that hasn’t had a lot of breaks and/or things go their way in Pac-12 play this season.
The Utes opened the conference campaign with narrow losses to ASU (55-54 in overtime), Arizona (60-57) and UCLA (57-53). A close setback to California (62-57) was added to the mix two weeks later.
Now, the tide may be turning — at least at home. Utah has won two straight Pac-12 games in Salt Lake City. The Utes edged Colorado 58-55 before prevailing against the Sun Devils.
The latter had Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak reflecting on a couple of things — the resiliency of his team and how much fun they had in the locker room after the game, plus the fans who are supporting the Utes.
“We’re trying to get it restored, you know, and games like this give us momentum,” Krytskowiak said. “I think it’s not just the medicine for us but hopefully the fans can start feeling a little bit of that positive momentum, too, and we can get it built.”
Krystkowiak acknowledged that he had a feeling that things might go Utah’s way. He said that the Utes have learned a lot of lessons throughout the year.
This time, though, it wasn’t accompanied by a painful loss.
Utah executed down the stretch. Trailing 53-47 with less than three minutes remaining, the Utes pulled to within one after a pair of free throws by Jason Washburn and a 3-pointer from Brandon Taylor. Washburn then provided the go-ahead score on a reverse layup with 1:26 to go.
“The ball was really falling for me tonight. I had all the confidence in the world in that move,” said Washburn, who matched his career high with 26 points. “That’s kind of my move. I love that move under the basket. It was open. I took one dribble and saw it (and) just went aggressive.”
Taylor and Washburn later added two free throws apiece as Utah held on to the lead. Jarred DuBois also came up big the closing seconds. Before making a pair of foul shots to cap all scoring in the game, the senior drew a charge on ASU’s Jahii Carson with 16.6 seconds to go and the Utes clinging to a 58-55 lead.
“I think it shows the growth in our team,” Washburn said of the successful comeback. “We lost a few of these games early in the season.”
Utah (11-13, 3-9) returns to action Sunday afternoon at home against ninth-ranked Arizona. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m.