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Runnin' Utes remain undefeated in Pac-12 play after 19-point win over Beavers


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SALT LAKE CITY β€” Oregon State drained three consecutive 3-pointers out of the halftime break, and Utah's lead was down to one. In an instant, the Beavers took control of the game at the Huntsman Center on Thursday night.

But Marco Anthony and Branden Carlson had other plans.

The veteran duo took charge of the game and fought back to help Utah build back a 10-point lead minutes later. And by the time Carlson caught a lob pass above the rim from Rollie Worster and slammed it home with just over five minutes left to play, Utah had a 15-point lead and had weathered the storm.

Utah, which led wire-to-wire, held off an Oregon State team that has given the team trouble over the years and pulled away for a 79-60 win to maintain a perfect record in Pac-12 play.

"They were raining in 3s. They made the first three 3s in their first three possessions to cut it to what (one)," Utah (12-4, 5-0 Pac-12) head coach Craig Smith said. "We just stayed with the game plan and those percentages evened out; they finished the game missing their last nine 3s."

The Beavers opened up the game 4-of-4 from behind the arc to erase a strong Utah start to keep the game close in the first half, but Utah's starting unit set the tone on both sides of the ball early on and built up a 13 point lead β€” the largest of the game until late in the second half.

Oregon State (7-8, 1-3 Pac-12) refused to go away, though, and seemed to have an answer for every attempt Utah made to put some distance on the visiting team. For a team that traditionally got a majority of its point in the post and from the free-throw line, the Beavers had a dangerous arsenal from deep.

Smith said his team had played "relatively hard" to open up the first half, but added that it wasn't "to the degree you need to win in Pac-12 play." The Beavers scored 1.03 points per possession and shot 83.3% from 3-point range in the opening half, which was too much for Smith, who called Utah's defense "not good enough."

Still, Utah had an 8-point lead at the halftime break and controlled the game. And then the Beavers hit the three 3-pointers to open up the second half to erase the Runnin' Utes' lead in no time flat. But Utah locked in and held Oregon State to just 21.4% shooting from 3-point range in the second half as the team locked in defensively in all facets of the game.

"We had a different mindset in that second half defensively," Smith said.

"We were half a step off of guys and I think that helped them hit a couple," said Rollie Worster, who finished with 6 points and eight of the team's 18 assists. "Just coming out, and even though they hit a couple, sticking to our game plan and just getting out on guys tighter and getting up into the ball more."

As Utah locked in on defense, the veteran leaders of the team helped the team pull away en route to a 19-point victory and the program's first-ever 5-0 start to Pac-12 play.

"It's good to make some new history that's not negative, unlike last year's start making some history," Carlson said. "So it's good to have a little change for that, and it's just great to be a part of this amazing program and university, and great that we can add to the resume."

Carlson led Utah with a double-double of 27 points, 11 rebounds and two assists in the win; and Anthony joined Carlson with a double-double himself with 14 points and 12 rebounds on a night that Smith called his guard "really good."

Gabe Madsen and Lazar Stefanovic added 13 points apiece for the Runnin' Utes, who wore white throwback jerseys Thursday night.

"Pac-12 plays is always hard; these guys kind of make you grind in a lot of respects," Smith said. "I knew this was gonna be a difficult game, and it was for quite some time. Obviously, we were able to separate in that second half. I thought we got a great start to the game. I thought that starting unit really got us going, got us off to a quick start, and then they kind of leveled off.

"You can see, they just keep fighting back and fighting back; you've got to give them a lot of credit."

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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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