The Utes normally ride on the shoulders of 7-foot star Jakob Poeltl, but during Wednesday’s 90-82 victory at the Huntsman Center they rained a tsunami of three-pointers on the unsuspecting Washington men’s basketball team.
SALT LAKE CITY — The Huskies were expecting another boxing matchup under the baskets with Utah’s 7-foot star Jakob Poeltl, who beat them up last month in their first encounter.
But the Washington men’s basketball team didn’t anticipate the haymakers the other Utes threw at them.
The Huskies did a better job of keeping Poeltl in check than they did last time, but too often they lost track of Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor, who rained a tsunami of three-pointers during Wednesday’s 90-82 defeat.
“I felt that we had come a ways defensively and I thought that we were making better decisions that way,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “This game here wasn’t what I was expecting at all.”
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Normally, the Huskies harass opponents with an aggressive defense that tends to create foul problems for UW.
In front of 11,675 at Huntsman Center, Washington was uncharacteristically passive defensively against a Utah team that carved up the Huskies like no other team this season.
The Utes shot a season-high 67.3 percent from the field while converting 35 of 52 field goals. They had 10 three-pointers, 12 layups or dunks and 26 assists.
“They did everything really well,” UW freshman forward Marquese Chriss said. “They shot the ball well. They got the ball inside.
“They were shooting layups and shooting threes and they were making their shots. You can only do so much when the ball goes in every time they throw it up.”
Loveridge, who scored 16 points, did most of the damage early. The senior forward drained four of his first five three-point attempts, and he finished with five, which was one shy of his personal best.
Taylor canned four three-pointers and scored 15 points.
“Utah has four guys that can flat-out shoot the ball,” Romar said. “We talked to our team about that. … Those guys can really really shoot the basketball. We knew that. There’s certain guys you want to make drivers and other guys you want to make shooters, and we did the reverse.
“Just a lot of mistakes. Credit Utah. They put us in positions where they exposed us.”
With Loveridge and Taylor leading the way early, Poeltl shined late and scored 17 of his team-high 23 points in the second half. Utah also received 18 points from guard Lorenzo Bonam.
“It was kind of pick your poison with them a little bit,” Chriss said. “You can either play one-on-one in the post or let them kick it out.”
Washington couldn’t capitalize on brilliant performances from Chriss and Andrew Andrews.
“I was aggressive,” said Chriss, who won many of the one-on-one battles against Poeltl, a projected lottery pick in this summer’s NBA draft. The UW big man finished with 24 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Andrews broke out of a five-game shooting slump. The Pac-12 scoring leader had 22 points on 8-for-16 shooting.
Washington also received a personal-best 13 points from freshman guard Dominic Green, and Noah Dickerson had 10.
The Utes led for more than 35 minutes and appeared to put the game away after Taylor sank a layup that put them ahead 80-67 with 5:50 left. The 13-point advantage was Utah’s largest lead.
But the Huskies didn’t go away quietly.
Chriss capped a 9-2 run with a three-pointer that cut UW’s deficit to 82-76 at the 4:29 mark. Poeltl then answered with five straight points that stretched Utah’s lead to 87-76.
Washington made one last push that included three consecutive dunks from Andrews, Chriss and backup center Malik Dime that narrowed the gap to 87-82 with 1:25 left.
Needing a defensive stop and rebound, the Huskies forced Loveridge into an errant three-pointer.
But Poeltl, who clobbered UW with 29 points and 10 rebounds during Utah’s 80-75 overtime win on Jan. 24 at Alaska Airlines Arena, collected the offensive rebound and flushed a two-handed dunk to seal the victory.
The Utes (18-7, 7-5 Pac-12) swept the regular-season series against UW for the first time since entering the Pac-12 in 2012.
Meanwhile, Washington (15-9, 7-5) dropped into a fourth-place tie in the Pac-12 with Utah. The Huskies need a win Saturday at Colorado to avoid their first three-game losing streak this season and to boost their hopes of snapping a five-year NCAA tournament drought.
“When we were at Arizona, we lost by 32 points and came back and won the next game,” Romar said, noting an 89-85 win at Arizona State last month. “There’s no reason to believe our guys are going to come back and have our heads down in our next game.”