Taylor, Wright pace No. 12 Utah in 86-64 win over WSU
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Almost everyone in college basketball by now knows about Utah's player of the year contender, Delon Wright. They might forget about the ''little warrior.''
Standing only 5-foot-10, Brandon Taylor is often the shortest player on the court - but he's the heart of the Utah attack.
''Brandon is an absolute little warrior,'' Utes coach Larry Krystowiak said. ''Pound-for-pound, I think he'd kick the snot out of anybody on the basketball court. He brings it on a daily basis and he plays the right way.''
Taylor scored 18 points and handed out seven assists to help No. 12 Utah beat Washington State 86-64 on Wednesday night.
Always feisty, Taylor had an unusually big chip on his shoulder for this game after Utah lost to then-No. 10 Arizona 69-51 last Saturday.
''You hate to have games like that one, but you need to have them. It exposed our weaknesses. But tonight I think we took the fight to them the way Arizona took the fight to us,'' Taylor said.
Wright had 17 points and eight assist as the Utes (15-3, 5-1 Pac-12) rebounded by returning to their winning ways at home, where Utah has defeated 31 straight unranked opponents.
''At the end of every game, I want to be able to tell myself I helped my team win this game. I helped elevate my teammates,'' said Taylor, who was 6 for 8 from the field and made four 3-pointers.
Jordan Loveridge scored 14 points for Utah, which played without Jakob Poeltl (ankle) but exploited a 20-1 edge in points off turnovers to turn the game into a blowout.
''We got back to our defensive principles,'' Taylor said.
DaVonte Lacy scored 15 points and Jordan Railey had 12 for the Cougars (9-9, 3-3). Josh Hawkinson had 12 points and 10 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the season.
The game could have been capsulized in one play that gave Utah a 78-58 cushion. Wright nabbed his third steal on an entry pass, found Taylor on the fast break, and he threw an alley-oop pass to Dakarai Tucker for a layup.
''Physically, we were kind of OK,'' Washington State coach Ernie Kent said. ''But mentally, we cannot go 14 for 27 from the free throw line, have 17 turnovers, and they only have four. Some of those turnovers are unforced turnovers.''
Taylor's 3-pointer gave Utah a 60-42 advantage, but the Cougars took advantage of a Utes cold spell and made three 3-pointers in a row. Brett Boese, who had 12 points, hit a long-range jumper that drew the Cougars to 62-52 with 10:54 to play.
Washington State led by four early and trailed 27-25 before the Utes picked up the pressure and prevented the Cougars from converting another field goal the rest of the half.
On the other end, Loveridge sparked a 19-2 run with a 3-pointer while getting fouled. The Utes led 46-27 at the break.
After receiving a ''good, old-fashioned beatdown'' at Arizona, as Krystkowiak put it, the Utes again lost the rebounding battle (35-30) but dominated in all other phases.
The Utes made 19 of 22 free throws while the Cougars lost their chance to stay in the game by going 14 for 27 from the line.
Washington State: Before the opening tip, Hawkinson made two free throws due to a technical foul assessed to Brekkott Chapman for a pregame dunk during warmups. ... The Cougars haven't won three consecutive league road games since January 2009. ... Both coaches wore gym shoes in support of Coaches vs. Cancer Suits And Sneakers Awareness Week.
Utah: Dallin Bachynski started at center in place of Poeltl. Bachynski limped off the court with a leg injury early in the second half but did return. ... Utah has won 13 straight at home against Washington State after dropping the first meeting on Dec. 14, 1946. ... Utah had 10 steals to one for WSU.
TRUST AND CARE
Utah's starting backcourt had 15 assists and zero turnovers. ''We're learning how to take care of the basketball. Offensively, we're figuring a few things out and not forcing the issue, but just trusting the offense,'' Krystkowiak said, noting that Utah had only one turnover in the first half and four for the game.
WSU tries to fast break at every opportunity, but Utah withstood every run by the Cougars. ''I don't think we've ever played a team in our building that has come at us that fast,'' Taylor said. As Kent said: ''Utah kept their composure, even when we started to get pretty sharp.''
WEARING THE TARGET
Krystowiak often says ''Utah's not sneaking up on anybody anymore.'' Taylor agrees, and said: ''We're ranked and there is definitely a target on our back now. ... We need to keep being humble because we still have a lot to prove ourselves even though we have had a lot of success so far.''
Washington State plays at Colorado on Saturday.
Utah hosts Washington on Sunday.