Once we picked up our intensity on the defensive end and then stopped turning the ball over we got back in the game. —Utah's Jordan Loveridge
SALT LAKE CITY — Although they were “zoned out” for much of the game, the Utah Utes managed to find a way to maintain their winning ways at home. They overcame a 15-point first-half deficit to defeat Idaho State 74-66 Tuesday night in the Huntsman Center, extending their run of victories up on the hill to 10 games — a streak that dates back to last season.
Jordan Loveridge paced the winning effort with 27 points. Delon Wright and Dakarai Tucker finished with 15 and 12, respectively.
“We’re in no position to be talking about streaks or anything like that,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak in downplaying the milestone of sorts. “There were a lot of weaknesses in our game tonight and we’ve got to address those and move on.”
Idaho State built a pair of 15-point advantages — at 35-20 and 37-22 — before halftime. The Bengals led 37-28 at the break after shooting 51.8 percent, accentuated by 5-of-8 accuracy from 3-point range. They also held a 15-11 rebounding edge.
Utah (8-1), meanwhile, managed to make half of its 22 shots in the opening half. The Utes, though, turned the ball over eight times against Idaho State’s zone defense. They were 4 of 12 from beyond the arc and had just one offensive rebound prior to the intermission.
“We just put a lot of heat on ourselves,” Krystkowiak said.
The Utes fared much better as the game progressed. They climbed back into contention with a 22-9 spurt over the late first and early second halves. A steal by Wright followed the burst and led to a layup by Loveridge, who converted a three-point play to give the Utes a 47-46 lead with 12 minutes left to play.
“Once we picked up our intensity on the defensive end and then stopped turning the ball over we got back in the game,” said Loveridge, who later added that Idaho State was just playing harder on both ends early on.
Although the game was tied on two other occasions, Utah took the lead for good on a dunk by Dallin Bachynski that made it 52-50 with 9:38 remaining.
Idaho State never really went away, however. The Bengals crept as close as a single point before falling back by as many as nine down the stretch.
“They came in here focused and gave us all we could handle,” Krystkowiak said. “There’s upsets like this in college basketball all the time and I was really proud of the way our guys responded and didn’t become one of those stats.”
The Utes, who haven’t lost at home since dropping a 68-64 decision to No. 9 Arizona on Feb. 17, 2013, began their current run of success with Pac-12 victories over Oregon State (72-61) and No. 19 Oregon (72-62) last March.
Utah’s home-court streak, which will be put to the test Saturday night against rival BYU, is the program’s longest since an 11-game run in the 2008-09 season.
“We’ll enjoy this one tonight and then tomorrow when we wake up I think our focus will be on the Cougars,” Krystkowiak said.
EXTRA STUFF: The attendance was 8,138. ... Utah has won 12 of its last 13 home games. ... Idaho State coach Bill Evans, who led Southern Utah’s program from 1992-2007, led the Thunderbirds to a 76-73 victory over the Utes in his last trip to the Huntsman Center on Nov. 10, 2006. ... Tomas Sanchez topped the Bengals with 19 points.
Home, sweet home
Utah enters Saturday’s game against BYU with a 10-game winning streak at the Huntsman Center.
Date Opponent Result
3/7/13 Oregon State Won, 72-61
3/9/13 Oregon Won, 72-62
11/8/13 Evergreen State Won, 128-44
11/15/13 UC Davis Won, 94-60
11/21/13 Grand Canyon Won, 79-54
11/22/13 Lamar Won, 84-57
11/23/13 Savannah State Won, 71-57
11/27/13 Ball State Won, 88-69
12/7/13 Fresno State Won, 90-77
12/10/13 Idaho State Won, 74-66