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Utah wins OT thriller against Washington St., 62-60 for first Pac-12 win

By Associated Press | Posted - Jan. 5, 2012 at 9:50 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Josh Watkins built his reputation as a scorer by driving the ball all the way to the hoop and looping the ball over defenders that tower over his 5-foot-11 frame.

On Thursday night, Watkins surprised his opponents by pulling up at the free throw line and sinking two crucial jumpers as Utah got its first-ever Pac-12 conference win by beating Washington State 62-60 in overtime.

"At the end, my guy was just trying to overplay me and all I had to do was stop, rise up and hit that shot. My guy just went flying by," said Watkins, who scored 20 points and made the winning jumper in the extra period.

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"Teams in our league are going to load up on us, and if he thinks he's going to get to the rim every time, I told him it's not going to always happen. So some of his mid-range game needs to come into play," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said.

Watkins left the game with a bruised knee in the second half but returned to shock the Cougars with his key jump shots.

"I was hurting bad, but there was no doubt I was coming back. I didn't even want to go to the locker room. I'm a tough guy," Watkins said.

Jason Washburn had 11 points and Dijon Farr 10 before fouling out in regulation as the Utes (4-10, 1-1) rebounded from back-to-back losses of more than 30 points each.

"Wow, we experienced the two ends of the spectrum the last two games, but this definitely feels really good and means a lot to our guys," Krystkowiak said.

Brock Motum had 27 points and eight rebounds and Faisel Aiden scored 11 points, but the Cougars (9-6, 1-2) couldn't overcome 10 of 22 free throw shooting and crucial turnovers.

In overtime, Washington State's Reggie Moore missed a jumper with 12 seconds left. Watkins rushed down the court, freed himself with a behind-the-back dribble and made a 14-foot jumper with 3.3 seconds remaining.

"We all know `Jiggy' can score. He can score inside or outside so when he has the ball in his hands, we know we have a chance," Utah guard Chris Hines said.

The Cougars had to go the full length of the court, and DaVonte Lacy dribbled off his leg out of bounds with 1.5 seconds left. The Utes inbounded to Watkins, who threw the ball high in the air to run out the clock.

"We made history tonight - our first Pac-12 win. It took a huge load off of our shoulders. We were so happy," guard Cedric Martin said.

Motum made two free throws to give Washington State a 54-49 lead with 2:20 to play in regulation, but it didn't score again before overtime. Hines made a 3-pointer off a Watkins assist, and Watkins made a pull-up jumper with 18 seconds left to knot the game at 54-54.

"As a shooter, you got to keep on shooting. I missed a few but I knew I'd get some opportunities with them watching `Jiggy' like they did," Hines said.

Motum made 10 of 12 shots, including all three 3-point attempts, one game after scoring 26 points in WSU's win over Oregon State. But the rest of the Cougars combined to go 11 for 36.

"We have to come out with energy, effort and focus and I don't think we brought it the way we needed to," Cougars coach Ken Bone said. "You let a team like Utah hang around and they get more confident and gain momentum on their home court.

The Utes, who dress just one senior, had nowhere to go but up. Utah lost its Pac-12 opener on Dec. 31 at Colorado, 73-33. In this game, their defense and tenacity chasing loose balls kept it close, even when they couldn't hit shots.

"My brother texted me today about how he had good vibes about this game, and I texted back and said I was feeling the same thing. I didn't know if we'd play well but I was certain we'd play hard," Krystkowiak said.

For just the third time this season, Utah led at halftime. Watkins scored 10 points, and the Utes had 10 points off Washington State turnovers to help stake a 29-23 advantage at intermission.

But the Utes committed turnovers on their first three possessions of the second half. Martin's tip-in gave Utah its last lead of regulation at 34-33 with 14:33 to play. Abe Lodwick sparked a quick 6-0 run for WSU, and the Utes had to play catch-up until the final minute.

With 12 minutes remaining, Watkins aggressively drove to the hoop. He didn't get a foul call and landed awkwardly on his knee. As he writhed in pain in the corner and the crowd booed, Faisal Aden made an open 3-point jumper at the other end to put the Cougars ahead, 42-36.

Watkins was helped to the locker room but returned to the game with 9:22 to play and promptly scored on an acrobatic layup.

"We knew he was coming back. The guy's from the playgrounds of New York," guard Kareem Storey said.

The Utes have won 11 home games in a row against the Cougars and lead the overall series 14-2.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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