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SALT LAKE CITY — A 48-year drought has come to an end … of sorts.
The Runnin’ Utes came into the Maples Pavilion Thursday and grinded out a 70-66 win over the Stanford Cardinal for the first time since 1971. For context, Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak was only 6 years old when they last walked away from the arena with a win. But the matchup Thursday is only the seventh time Utah has played in the arena over that time period.
Still, it was a key win for the Utes in Pac-12 play as they look to claim a weekend road sweep and improve to 10-8, 4-2 on the season.
The Utes started the game off slowly, shooting 30 percent from the field and getting six shots blocked — including two 3-pointers that were blocked — in the first 10 minutes of the game. But Utah would keep the game close and made seven of their last nine buckets in the first half to claim a 5-point lead at the half.
Expecting to build on the first-half momentum, Utah again came out cold and went on a five-minute scoring drought, as Stanford went on a 7-0 run to reclaim the lead. Utah, though, would continue to chip away at Stanford’s lead, as the Cardinal held onto a slim lead late into the game. Neither team would lead by more than 6 points throughout the game.
Utah guard Sedrick Barefield would take matters into his own hands with just over five minutes left to play in the game and hit a pair of 3-pointers to start an 8-0 Utah run. The quick run would give Utah the lead and the two teams who trade baskets for the remainder of the game.
The Utes would close out the game making six of its last eight baskets and hit key free throws late, including Barefield’s perfect 4-of-4 from the charity stripe. The Cardinal couldn’t equalize and missed basket after basket down the stretch to give Utah the victory.
Barefield led Utah in scoring with 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field, including 4-of-5 from the 3-point line. Three of his four 3-pointers came late in the game, including a rim-bouncing 3-pointer to push Utah’s lead. Utah needed Barefield’s leadership on the court as the senior played 39 minutes for the Utes.
Behind Barefield in scoring was sophomore Donnie Tillman’s 11 points and four rebounds, and senior Parker Van Dyke’s 10 points. The former East High product added a key layup late in the game as he split a Stanford defense that frustrated Utah all night and had an impressive 10 blocks.
The Cardinal’s zone defense and overall size advantage over Utah, though, wasn’t enough for the win as they drop to 9-10, 2-5 on the season. Sophomore forward KZ Okpala, who has attracted the eye of NBA scouts as the team’s leading scorer this season, finished the game with a game-high 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting.
Utah will look to claim a rare road sweep as they travel to take on Cal on Saturday at 6 p.m. MST.