Utah keeps winning streak alive against Washington State
Don't look now but Utah (12-7, 3-4 Pac-12) is on a winning streak.
Led by Rylan Jones' 24 points, the Utes took down Washington State 76-64 on Saturday night, notching their second consecutive victory after a four-game losing streak in Pac-12 play.
“He's one of the best there is,” Utah forward Mikael Jantunen said of Jones, who added four steals and three assists. “Sometimes, you'll stop and watch too, which is probably not a good thing to say. But he's a great player."
Jantunen was as equally impressive, coming off the bench to score 16 points, with five rebounds and three assists.
It was another big night for Jones, after he almost single-handedly carried the Utes to victory over Washington two days prior. While he did most of his work at the free throw line during that game, Jones didn't need the charity stripe for Saturday night.
After the Cougars (12-9, 3-5 Pac-12) made it interesting late, cutting the Utah lead to 62-54 with just under six to play, Jones put his superman cape on again. He scored on four consecutive possessions for the Utes, while finishing with 11 of the final 14 points scored by Utah.
“Rylan has a mentality of pass first, he looks for the open guy,” said center Branden Carlson, who finished with 12. “He’s not trying to get his or anything like that. Rylan is one of my favorite point guards I’ve ever played with. He’s a team player, always doing what’s best for the team.”
After leading 37-25 at the end of the first half, the Utes came out flat to begin the second half. Washington State went on an 18-5 run just over six minutes into the half, taking a 43-42 lead. But rather than panic, the Utes responded with their own 9-0 run to take control of the game, led by four points from Jantunen and a three-pointer by Jones.
"We've had a little bit of a renewed sense of that with our guys where they're getting down and taking some pride and staying between the basket and their guy so we don't have to help as much and don't have as many breakdowns," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "They’re super humble kids and they don’t want any spotlight."
Sophomore Timmy Allen, who has been Utah's best player for the majority of the season, struggled from the field but finished with 11 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals. He showed his maturity by constantly finding his open teammates and letting the game come to him rather than forcing the issue on offense.
Utah, armed with much needed confidence, will head out back on the road USC (16-4, 5-2 Pac-12) and UCLA (10-10, 3-4 Pac-12) this upcoming weekend. The Utes start with the Trojans on Thursday night, with tipoff set for 7:30 p.m. MST.