SALT LAKE CITY — With former Ute Kyle Kuzma sitting courtside the night after scoring 41 points for the Los Angeles Lakers, Utah was looking for some scoring magic of their own.
But Washington (11-4, 2-0) never blinked and was the more consistent team throughout, giving Utah (7-8, 1-2) its second loss of Pac-12 play this season in a 69-53 Utes defeat Thursday.
Utah played Washington well enough to keep the game close in the first half and never allowed the Huskies to claim more than an 8-point lead. But seven first-half turnovers and soft defensive play from Utah afforded the Huskies open looks and easy buckets down the stretch to give Washington a 38-30 lead at the half.
The Utes would continue to pile up the turnovers in the second half as Washington quickly jumped out to a 15-point lead within the first two minutes of play. Utah’s Sedrick Barefield would eventually cut Washington’s lead to 5 points with a top-of-the-key 3-pointer. But Washington would answer back with a 10-0 run of its own amid a nearly five-minute scoring drought for the Utes.
That was enough to doom the Utes, who continued to give the Huskies open look after open look behind the 3-point line.
“I thought we made progress,” Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said about his team’s defensive effort, “but at the end of the day you have to be so connected and have all five guys defensively connected to where you have each other’s back.”
Still, Krystkowiak said his team needed to find a way to score more against Washington’s impressive zone defense — a defense that smothered Utah’s offensive effort and rushed shots, which contributed to 24 missed 3-pointers on the night for the Utes.
“A lot of the guys out here hadn’t seen that before,” Krystkowiak said. “When you go to take shots and you have that much length flying at you, it’s easy to see why they lead the conference in blocks and steals.”
Washington’s Nahziah Carter had the hot hand for the Huskies, scoring 18 points on the night as the team’s leading scoring, including three 3-pointers on 3-of-4 shooting from deep. But David Crisp wasn’t far behind with 17 points on 5-of-13 shooting from the field, including 5-of-7 from behind the 3-point line.
Washington head coach Mike Hopkins said Crisp’s shooting was key to keeping Utah from make a run throughout the game. Each time Utah would start to cut into Washington’s lead, Crisp drained a 3-pointer to keep the momentum with the Huskies.
“When David is confident, we run a few plays for him — he’s a scorer,” Hopkins said. “He was doing that every time they were trying to make a run. He would just come back with a dagger.”
Utah was led in scoring by sophomore Donnie Tillman, who finished the night with 10 points on 3-of-7 shooting on the night. Jayce Johnson, who left the game in the second half due to a deep cut to his forehead, was the only other member of the Utah team to score in double figures Thursday night, finishing with 12 points and eight rebounds. Utah would finish the night with 16 turnovers, leading to 18 points for Washington.
This story will be updated.