SALT LAKE CITY — It started on the first offensive play of the night when Utah’s Parker Van Dyke set up for a what seemed to be a routine 3-point shot only to have Washington’s Matisse Thybulle come flying in to swat Van Dyke’s shot away.
The Huskies came into the game ranked No. 3 in the country in blocked shots at 6.2 per game and they surpassed that total in the first half alone when they blocked seven Ute shots on their way to nine blocks on the night.
The blocks were part of a swarming zone defense that stymied the Utes all night. If the Huskies weren’t blocking Utah shots, they were intimidating Ute shooters, forcing Sedrick Barefield into a 2-for-10 night, including several 3-point tries from the 28- to 30-foot range.
As Donnie Tillman said later, "One guy would fly past you and then another one’s coming. If they block a shot two or three times, you’re thinking about it. They did that multiple times tonight and it makes you a little hesitant to shoot.”
Coach Larry Krystkowiak was impressed with all the "long dudes coming down and collapsing on you and called Washington "not a traditional blocked shots team" since many of their blocks are outside the paint.
“It’s a different animal playing against that zone," he said. "There’s not a lot of opportunities and be creative with it and be able to knock down shots. A lot of our guys hadn’t seen that before. You try to figure out how in the world do they lead our conference in blocked shots and steals and then you get out there and play against some of that length and it’s really hard to simulate.”
Besides nine blocked shots, the Huskies also came up with nine steals against the Utes, who committed 16 turnovers on the night.
KUZMA’S BACK: Fresh off his 41-point game the night before against Detroit, former Ute standout Kyle Kuzma was on hand for Thursday night’s game to watch his former team.
Kuzma, whose Lakers team plays the Utah Jazz Friday night, sat on the second row with teammate Lance Stephenson and was recognized on the Jumbotron midway through the first half.
Before he left at halftime, Kuzma talked about how much he’s enjoying the NBA and says he still follows and “keeps tabs” on the Utes. He said he keeps mostly in touch with Austin Eastman, a walk-on who was on the team with him for two years.
Kuzma played for the Utes from 2014-17. He played three years and finished with a career scoring average of 10.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. As a senior his averages were 16.4 and 9.3 per game. He was drafted No. 27 overall and last year was selected to the NBA all-rookie teamComment on this story
GAME NOTES: Junior Jayce Johnson, who led the team with 12 points and eight rebounds, left the game with a bloody face with 2:00 left in the game and went to the locker room with trainer Trevor Jameson, where he received three stitches in his forehead . . . The Utes and Huskies will play again in Seattle on Feb. 20 . . . The Utes swept the Huskies last year, winning 70-62 in Salt Lake and 70-58 in Seattle . . . Utah is 9-4 against Washington since joining the Pac-12 . . . Three of Washington’s four losses this year were to top-15 ranked teams. The Huskies lost to No. 11 Auburn on the road, No. 13 Virginia Tech on a neutral court and to No. 1 Gonzaga on the road by just two points . . . The Utes play Washington State Saturday at 6 p.m. Utah has beaten the Cougars nine times . . . Washington opened Pac-12 play with an 85-67 win over Washington State.