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January 8, 2012Utah took to the Huntsman Center on Saturday afternoon against the University of Washington in a clash that came down to the final minute for the second time in three days.
The Utes held Washington to a season low 57 points coming at the Huskies with a stingy defense forcing Washington to fight for nearly every point that they scored.
"Once we get our minds focused and we buckle down on defense we can do anything," said senior Josh Watkins.
It took Washington until about halfway through the first half before they started to have success with their offense. The Huskies started the game going 2-12 from the field, but then proceded to hit five of their next seven shots.
Utah native and Washington swingman CJ Wilcox had a rough homecoming as he went 2-14 from the field and 1-5 from three-point range. Wilcox finished with five points, ten below his season average.
Washington's leading scorer, Tony Wroten, was limited to six shots for the game and finished with a quiet eight points.
"CJ Wilcox was a big point for us and Wroten," said Utah Head Coach Larry Krystkowiak. "I thought that Wroten and CJ we did a pretty good job on. Those were the first two guys on the list (to stop) and like a lot of good teams the supporting cast stepped up."
The game was a back and forth contest in the first half as the Utes went into the locker room down by two, but beaming with confidence.
The renewed effort on the boards and on defense has been noticeable in the last two games for the Utes. Although Utah was giving up a lot of height to the Huskies, the Utes outrebounded the Huskies 39 to 34.
"We were hustling, battling, hitting people, getting a little grimy," said junior guard Chris Hines. "We're learning that we have to play hard every possession so it's helping us."
Washington caught fire going into halftime and continued their clutch shooting into the start of the second half. At one point the Utes found themselves down by as much as ten points, but never panicked and had a chance to even things up in the final minute.
"Giving ourselves a chance to win down the stretch very much validated in my mind what was a very positive week from Monday all the way through the final horn," said Krystkowiak.
Unfortunately for the Utes their effort was not enough to pull out the victory as Washington escaped with a final of 57-53 but they came away satisfied with their effort.
"I don't like to lose, you know. I don't want people to feel like its okay and it's a consolation prize," said Krystkowiak. He went on to say that despite the loss there were plenty of positives to take out of the game from their defense.
"I'm satisfied that we really didn't give up and we showed heart the whole game," said junior Cedric Martin.
"Those guys just hit tough shots at the end of the shot clock. We stuck to the game plan, we played hard to the end, 40 minutes of basketball, and (Washington) just hit tough shots at the end of the shot clock," said Watkins.
Next up for the Utes, they head to Palo Alto for Stanford and to Berkley to face Cal.
"The proof will be whether we can take the show on the road," said Krystkowiak.
"We know we're not going to have the crowd that we have here, which is a great, terrific crowd, and we just got to keep our composure on the road and let's get some win on the road. Show everybody we can compete with anybody any given day," said Watkins.
Josh Watkins was once again the leading scorer for the Utes with 18 points. He also contributed three steals.
Utah finished the game with only six assists on 19 made shots compared to 13 assists for Washington on 21 made shots.