PULLMAN, Wash. — There was a sense of urgency for the Utah Utes Saturday night at Washington State. It wasn’t really discussed, explained head coach Larry Krystkowiak, but it was there.
By the end of the evening, everything fell into place for the Utes — starting with a 92-79 win over the Cougars.
“This is the end of the season when everybody’s trying to get to the finish line. You kind of get at the crossroads,” Krystkowiak said. “I haven’t told our guys all year, the magnitude of a game like this.”
The victory, coupled with USC’s loss to Oregon State, left the Utes (15-12, 9-6) in sole possession of fourth place with just three games left in the regular season. It’s an important position considering the top four teams earn byes in the upcoming Pac-12 Tournament.
One sure way Utah can secure such a spot now is to win remaining games against Colorado, USC and UCLA. Such a run would carry a guarantee. Any more losses, including opposite scenarios over the weekend, would cloud the situation. USC and UCLA are just one game behind the Utes entering the final two weeks of play.
“Our eyes are still on that prize and without this game it becomes a little bit of a loaded deck,” Krystkowiak said. “So I was super pleased with kind of the warrior mentality.”21 comments on this story
Sedrick Barefield scored 33 points as the Utes improved to 6-3 on the road in Pac-12 play. Parker Van Dyke added 17 points, while Donnie Tillman contributed a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Tillman was also credited with holding conference scoring leader Robert Franks to just seven points in the second half — he had 22 in the first.
Krystkowiak was pleased with how the Utes switched from zone to man defense in the game. Offensively, he noted that the ball was shared and resulted in 16 3-pointers.
“It was a team effort, definitely,” Tillman said.
Utah has just one game this week, Saturday in Boulder.