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Runnin' Utes sweep Bay Area schools, stay unblemished in Pac-12 play


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LOS ANGELES β€” The Runnin' Utes closed out the 2022 year on a strong note ... with a little bit of a scare mixed into it.

In the second game of a Bay Area road trip, Utah maintained an unblemished Pac-12 record with a 71-66 win over Stanford in an afternoon game at Maples Pavilion on New Year's Eve.

Utah (11-4, 4-0 Pac-12) matched its previous season win total on Saturday and picked up three straight road wins in Pac-12 play for the first time since joining the conference in 2011.

Though a win, Stanford made Utah sweat late in the game after the Cardinal erased a 16-point Utes lead on a 12-2 run to eventually make it a 2-point game with two minutes left to play.

Stanford had a late chance to cut the lead again as it worked the ball around to a wide open Spencer Jones at the top of the key for a drained 3-pointer. But the shot was waiver off after the refs said Cardinal coach Jerod Haase called a timeout.

Stanford was forced to play the foul game in hopes Utah would stumble, but Utah finished well at the free-throw line (9-for-10) to pull away for the road victory.

Lazar Stefanovic led all scores with 20 points that included 3-of-3 from 3-point range and three rebounds in the win. Branden Carlson finished with 20 points and four rebounds and became the 41st player in Utah history to break the 1,000 career points mark. Carlson now has 1,002 points in his career with the Utes.

Utah, who nearly led wire-to-wire, had no problem finding open shots against a Stanford (5-9, 0-4 Pac-12) team that struggled to stay engaged fully on defense for much of the game until late. As a result, Utah finished the game shooting 57% from the field and 43% from 3-point range.

Carlson split the defense multiple times in the post, and Stanford's defense opened up the driving lane to give Utah players easy access to the rim β€” to the tune of 28 points in the paint. Conversely, the Cardinal couldn't get into a rhythm on offense, especially for much of the first half, and went into the halftime break on a five-minute scoring drought.

Despite shooting the ball well and building up a 16-point lead against Stanford, Utah couldn't pull away due 16 total turnovers in the game that led to 15 points on the other end for the Cardinal. Still, Utah stayed ahead comfortably until a late surge by Stanford to make it a game.

Jones finished with a team-high 16 points and four rebounds in the loss. He was was joined in double figures by Isa Silva's 11 points and Max Murrell's 10 points. The Cardinal finished the game shooting 42% from the field, which was an improvement on a poor 35% effort in the first half.

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Josh is the Sports Director for KSL.com and beat writer of University of Utah athletics β€” primarily football, men’s basketball and gymnastics. He is also an Associated Press Top 25 voter for college football.

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