Utes Pull Away In Second Half, Open Pac-12 On High Note Against Wazzu

Dec 29, 2023, 8:37 PM | Updated: Dec 30, 2023, 11:28 am

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Utes overcame a slow second-half start to blow out Washington State 80-58 in the Utes final Pac-12 opener at the Huntsman Center.

The Utes (10-2) hosted the WSU Cougars (9-3) on Friday, December 29.

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Gabe Madsen led Utah with 20 points on 4-of-9 from deep while Branden Carlson added 19 points, eight rebounds, and five assists. Keiba Keita made 6-of-8 from the field and the free-throw line to finish with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

Utah’s defense limited the Cougars to 31.3 percent shooting and 4-of-20 (20 percent) from deep. The Utes scored 20 points off of 13 WSU turnovers.

First Half

Utah’s defense came out strong, forcing Wazzu to miss their first six shots. The Utes were only slightly better on the other end, hitting 2-of-8 to take a 6-0 lead at the first media timeout.

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The Cougar’s first field goal didn’t come until the 14:51 mark when Jaylen Wells hit a three to make it 8-4 Utes.

A pair of Deivon Smith buckets helped Utah increase its advantage to 20-12.

A 9-2 Washington State run forced the Utes to call a timeout leading 24-23 with 4:46 left in the half.

A strong close to the half allowed Wazzu to break the 40 percent shooting plateau while Utah made 38.9 percent. The Utes missed all six of their three-point attempts.

Utah led 31-29 after 20 minutes.

Second Half

The shooting futility continued out of the break as both teams combined to miss the first five shots of the half before Myles Rice hit a jumper to tie the game at 31.

The Cougars used three offensive rebounds to open the half on an 11-3 run to take a 40-34 lead into the first media timeout.

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Utah went more than three minutes between Gabe Madsen buckets as they struggled from the floor.

The rock fight of a game went back and forth in the middle stages of the half as six lead changes prevented either program from gaining a foothold.

Madsen’s third triple of the night gave Utah a 48-44 lead at the under-12-minute timeout.

Utah continued its run out of the timeout, extending the advantage to 58-46 after outscoring WSU 21-4 over 4:44 of playing time.

Another cold stretch awaited the Utes as they went more than four minutes without a field goal until Branden Carlson hit a three with 5:02 to play. While their offense was struggling, the Ute defense locked in.

A second three less than a minute later gave Utah a 16-point lead.

WSU went scoreless for almost five minutes down the stretch. The lead ballooned to 20 with the Cougars scoring attack absent.

Utah finished the game on a 14-2 run to pick up a 22-point win.

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Craig Smith’s Utes welcome the Washington Huskies into the Jon M. Huntsman Center on Sunday, December 31. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. (MT).

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Utes Pull Away In Second Half, Open Pac-12 On High Note Against Wazzu