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SALT LAKE CITY — Washington employed the zone defense, but it was no match against a Utah team that played arguably its most complete game of conference play of the season on Saturday night at the Huntsman Center.
The Runnin' Utes broke the zone, scored first and never gave up the lead to a Huskies team that was on a three-game win streak. When the final buzzer sounded, Utah had an 86-61 win in front of an announced crowd of 7,815 fans that mostly filled up the lower bowl of the arena.
"Probably the most complete weekend," Utah head coach Craig Smith said, not willing to say Saturday's performance was the most complete performance of the season. "We just really took care of business at home, which good teams have to do, but we really — on both sides of the ball we played at a high level this week."
Utah (14-7, 7-3 Pac-12) split Washington's 3-2 zone early and found easy jump shots in the middle to control a double-digit lead. That lead ballooned midway through the first half when Utah's Gabe Madsen went on an 8-0 run of his own in less than a minute of game time.
Madsen attacked the rim for a layup and then hit back-to-back transition 3-pointers to give the home team a 19-point lead in front of a raucous crowd at the Huntsman Center that celebrated every shot he made in succession.
Utah took its foot off the gas after the large lead and for a moment settled for bad shots as Washington (12-9, 4-6 Pac-12) went on an 11-1 run to cut Utah's lead to eight with 2:36 left to play in the first half. But it was the closest the Huskies could get as Utah pulled away to take a 14-point lead into the halftime break.
The Runnin' Utes remained hot in the second half against a Huskies defense that relaxed on the zone for a time and opted for more of a man defense that Utah had no problem beating, either. On several attempts, Washington looked lost on defense and Utah had free run to the basket — either for an easy layup or dunk, or a drive and dish to an open player for an easy bucket.
Washington had no answer for Utah. Still, Washington fought to the bitter end.
"We have a lot of versatile parts on our team," Smith said. "We have a lot of guys that can do a lot of different things, so depending on how they adjust, we have various things that we do against zones; and tonight, for the most part, we just did kind of our one simple continuity.
"I thought we really executed against that zone at a high level and got really good and clean shots, and just played very selfless basketball."
Utah finished with 20 assists on 35 made field goals as Utah out-scored Washington 48-22 in the post and shot 51% from the field and 47% from 3-point range on seven made 3-pointers.
Washington later employed a full-court press in an attempt to stop Utah, but the home team continued to find a way to break the press and got points on the other end to keep a comfortable lead. The lead, again, ballooned — this time to the tune of 24 points with 3:42 left to play in the game.
And by then the white flag had been raised and Washington had to wait for the time to run out.
"I just thought we were super aggressive, super physical, and I thought we played very connected on the offensive end," Smith said. "We had 20 assists again tonight; we had 20 assists on Thursday night. Just did such a better job of execution, execution, execution, and that was the theme of our week."
Carlson led Utah with 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting and added eight rebounds, three blocks and three steals in the win. He was joined in double figures by Madsen, who had 17 points, including three made 3-pointers, and Marco Anthony's 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Rollie Worster narrowly missed a triple-double with 11 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds as the team's floor general on a night when Utah only had two turnovers in the first half before finishing with 11 for the game.
Worster had a chance for a final rebound with a minute left to play, but Anthony secured the rebound instead before the pair were replaced by a clearing of the bench. Anthony, though, was more concerned with the win than any personal accolades he had on Saturday night. To him, it was more important that the team took care of the ball.
Washington's Keion Brooks Jr. lead the Huskies with 17 points and nine rebounds in the loss, but needed 19 field goal attempts to get his points. Cole Bajema added 13 points and four rebounds, and Noah Williams finished with 10 points.
Though Utah got the win, freshman center Keba Keita sustained a lower leg injury in the first half when he attempted to make a basket under the rim and was fouled. Keita came down awkwardly and fell to the ground in pain before eventually being helped off the court to the locker room.
Keita remained in the locker room for the duration of the night and didn't join his team on the bench.
Smith said he didn't know the status of Keita after the game since he hadn't talked to the training staff yet, but was optimistic Keita would be ready to go next week as Utah travels to Oregon.
"Honestly, I don't even know," Smith said. "Obviously, I saw him fall down in the middle of (the first half). Shortly thereafter, I was like, 'Can we put Keba in?' He was in the tunnel warming up; I think he'll be fine. He was in a boot, though, so I don't know what that means."