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SALT LAKE CITY — The Runnin’ Utes shook off Tuesday’s tough loss at Boise State with a 90-77 victory over Fresno State (5-4) Saturday afternoon at the Jon M. Huntsman Center.
Here are a few things we can take away from Utah’s seventh win of the season.
Wright can take over a game
Delon Wright has already shown he can impact a matchup in several different ways. Against the Bulldogs, he showed he has the ability to completely take over a basketball game.
Coming out of halftime with a 40-39 lead, the Utes outscored Fresno State 24-15 in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Wright didn’t score a single point during that span, but he registered an assist on five of Utah’s eight made field goals.
Over the following three minutes, Wright stopped dishing it out and began to put the ball in the hoop. He scored the next 11 Utah points to stretch that run to 35-20, ballooning Utah’s lead to 75-59.
"He had that great stretch that really kind of put us over the top and gave us some separation," Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said of Wright. "You're a heckuva lot better coach when you have players like that. It's nice. If we can find a bunch more of them, we can get this thing on cruise control and I'll be a heckuva coach."
Wright finished the game with a career-high 23 points to go with 12 assists, six rebounds, two steals and a block.
The Utes show improvement against zone D
During the Boise State game, there were times when it appeared uncertain whether or not Utah would be able to succeed against a good zone defense. Its offense often looked stagnant and had trouble knocking down outside shots.
Some of those issues still lingered in the first half against Fresno State, but the second half yielded different results.
The Utes converted 4-of-9 from beyond the arc in the second half, shooting 41.2 percent overall from downtown — a big improvement from their 24.1 percent clip they set at Boise State.
Combine that better outside shooting with Wright’s penetrating into the lane and creating off the dribble, and you see a little more success for Utah against zone defense.
"Our guys did a better job of taking care of the basketball and not really forcing anything," Krystkowiak said. "We made a number of extra passes and made some plays, and had as much poise as I thought we'd seen in a while. I thought we cleaned some things up after the Boise game that we weren't very sharp with and hopefully we learned from that."
Krystkowiak has the player for the occasion
Over the last handful of games, junior guard Princeton Onwas had found his way into the starting lineup and was making a big contribution. Likewise, junior center Dallin Bachynski was providing a spark of energy and inside presence off the bench.
For the first time in his tenure as head coach of the Utes, however, Krystkowiak has the luxury of not playing major contributors in favor of others that provide more favorable matchups for his team.
Onwas started but only played six minutes. In his stead, sophomore Dakarai Tucker scored 10 points in 24 minutes, sinking 2-of-3 from 3-point range to help break down the Bulldogs' zone.
Freshman center Jeremy Olsen played his best game of the season, scoring 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting. As a result, Bachynski didn’t get into the game.
"I believe we have a pretty deep team," said Krystkowiak. "Dakarai hit some big shots for us and Jeremy got some stuff accomplished in the post."
Krystkowiak stressed that neither player is in the "doghouse." It all came down to matchups, and the coach’s decisions paid off.
"I have to make some decisions and go with what's in my gut, and that's what I felt," he said. "I like to put shooters on the floor when facing a zone — not that (Onwas) can't shoot, but I think his strength is more in the open court.
"It was a focal point for us to have a post threat in the low post that's going to go and score — not that Dallin can't, but I don't think Dallin is as creative about it. Dallin is more of an energy post."
Next up: Utah (7-1) hosts Idaho State (3-2) from the Big Sky Conference Tuesday night. Tyson Maddy has covered the University of Utah football and men's basketball teams as a contributing writer for KSL.com Sports since 2011. Follow his Utes coverage on twitter @Tyson_Maddy