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SALT LAKE CITY — It wasn’t pretty, but the Runnin’ Utes took care of the Sun Belt Conference's Texas State Bobcats 69-50 Thursday night at the Jon M. Huntsman Center.
Here are the takeaways from Utah’s 10th win of the season.
Taylor can take over too
Junior Delon Wright and sophomore Jordan Loveridge have stepped up and carried the Utes during multiple key stretches so far this season. Thursday night, another Ute proved he could put his stamp on a game as well.
When Texas State clawed within four points with 12:19 left in the second half, sophomore Brandon Taylor knocked down a crucial 3-point shot to fuel a 24-8 run over the next seven minutes, a stretch in which Taylor contributed 10 points.
"The coaches have told me to keep shooting," Taylor said. "They wanted me to stop turning down open looks at the basket. I thought I was being more aggressive and that it was my time, in a way."
Taylor finished the night scoring a game-high 18 points with three assists.
Defense solid despite offensive struggles
On a night when Utah couldn’t take care of the ball or shoot particularly well — recording 12 giveaways and a 42 percent clip — its defense was as good as ever. The Utes held Texas State to just 38 percent from the field and took the ball away 15 times, playing suffocating defense on nearly every possession.
As a result, no Bobcat was ever able to get into any sort of rhythm other than sophomore Emani Gant, who managed to register 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
"People focus on defensive effort but we played well there and really did a nice job," coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "We were just going through the motion on offense against their packed-in zone. We didn't play really hard. In the first half, we only had three assists. We need to be sharper and stop committing turnovers. Luckily, we put it together in the second half."
The 50 points were the fewest allowed by the Utes this season against a Division 1 opponent (allowed 44 against Division 2 Evergreen State).
Jan. 2 can’t come soon enough
It became strikingly apparent that Utah players, coaches and fans alike are ready to move past this humdrum preseason slate and get on with Pac-12 conference play. The Utes came out sloppy, careless and at times appeared uninterested during a pitiful first-half performance, despite the fact they still held a comfortable lead for most of the period.
The good news is that conference play is just around the corner. Utah will open the Pac-12 season hosting No. 13 Oregon on Jan. 2 before welcoming Oregon State on Jan. 4, and then paying a visit to the Pacific Northwest to face the Huskies and Cougars the following week.
Next up: There’s still one more non-conference matchup to go before the Utes get into that Pac-12 season, however. Utah will host NAIA Saint Katherine on Saturday, Dec. 28, at 2 p.m. The San Diego-based college has already suffered beatdowns of 89-37 at Utah Valley and 107-36 at Weber State. 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