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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Utah Utes guard Parker Van Dyke (5) high fives fans near the end of the game against UCLA Bruins in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. Utah won 84-78.
To be on a stage like with that two big threes was huge. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer kid. —Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, on Parker Van Dyke

SALT LAKE CITY — An unlikely hero emerged in Utah’s 84-78 victory over UCLA Thursday night at the Huntsman Center.

Parker Van Dyke, who grew up in the shadows of the University of Utah, playing down the street at East High School, came up with the biggest plays of his Ute career and perhaps the biggest plays of the season for the Utes, who won their fifth straight game and continued their climb up the Pac-12 standings.

Van Dyke, who came into the game averaging just 4.0 points on the season, scored a career-high 18 points and hit two 3-pointers with the shot clock running down during the final three minutes to give the Utes the huge victory over the Bruins in front of a frenzied Huntsman Center crowd.

Coach Larry Krystkowiak is happy for all of his players to have success, but was especially happy for Van Dyke, who has barely gotten off the bench in some games this season.

“It was really cool,” Krystkowiak said. “I actually had a flashback of him being a little shaver and coming to these games when he was just a little ankle-biter. To be on a stage like with that two big threes was huge. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer kid.”

Van Dyke was in the starting lineup for just the eighth time this season and had to play extra minutes (34) Thursday with starting guard Sedrick Barefield out with an injury to his ribs.

In the first half, Van Dyke sank a couple of shots and then added a layup and a 3-pointer in the opening minutes of the second half when the Utes stretched their lead to 57-45.

Van Dyke’s heroics began when the Utes were clinging to a 70-69 lead after the Bruins had come nearly all the way back from a 14-point deficit. None of the Utes seemed to want to shoot, but with three seconds on the shot clock, Van Dyke fired a shot from the left corner and hit nothing but net to move the margin to four.

“I drove and kicked to Gabe (Bealer) and he didn’t have a shot so I got it right back. You look up at the shot clock and there’s four seconds left and it’s ticking down and you’ve just got to make a play.”

Then with under a minute to play, the Utes were leading 75-72 and again, the shot clock was winding down when Van Dyke saw the clock was down to one. His shot from the top of the key swished, giving the Utes some breathing room with 41 seconds left.

“Your thought process goes out the window when there’s two or three seconds left,” Van Dyke said. “You’ve got to make sure you get a shot up, when the clocks ticking you have to make a play for yourself or your teammates.”

Later Van Dyke added a pair of free throws for the Utes’ final margin.

After the game, Van Dyke was mobbed at center court by his teammates, Barefield in particular, and the Utah MUSS began chanting “PVD, PVD, PVD."

“He works hard every day, whether he’s playing or not, he’s giving it every day,” said Ute center David Collette. “He stepped up in a big way for us tonight.”

As for Van Dyke, it was a night he said he'll never forget.

“It’s special,” Van Dyke said. “I grew up watching games on the Huntsman Center floor to have an opportunity to play every game is awesome. But this game, specifically, is something I’ll always remember.”