SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak received a scare early Thursday when he found out starting point guard Justin Bibbins was dealing with flu-like symptoms. That clearly wasn’t an issue by game time.
“He pulled a little Michael Jordan, I think,” Krystkowiak said.
The Huskies (13-6, 3-3 Pac-12 Conference) have now dropped back-to-back games for just the second time this season.
Utah (11-7, 3-4) muddled up the game throughout the night, but was locked in on defense and kept Washington from finding an offensive groove. Every time the Huskies seemed on the verge of putting together some type of run, the Utes had an answer — usually from the hands of Bibbins. Washington cut the lead to four late behind Jaylen Nowell’s 17 points, but could never get over the hump. Donnie Tillman grabbed two late offensive boards to help hold off the rally.
Washington shot just 38.5 percent from the field, including 2 for 18 from 3-point range, while Utah shot 37.5 percent, but hit 11 more free throws than the Huskies.
Krystkowiak and his players lauded the defensive effort.
“We’ve had a lack of effort and energy the last couple games,” Utah forward David Collette said. “We just came out and played like we should.
“We have a defensive plan. We’re able to guard people. It’s just a matter of effort. We’ve just got to get down and do it. We’ve been missing that. … Everyone’s just got to find it in themselves to give that effort.”
Tillman scored 14 and Collette had 10 points for Utah. The 5-foot-8 Bibbins had the game high in rebounds and added five assists.
The Utes took a 35-24 lead into halftime thanks to a 24-12 run after the Huskies took their final lead of the game at 12-11.
“We came out flat,” Washington coach Mike Hopkins said. “They played like their backs were against the wall. The way the game started, it set the tone. I thought they came out and they just attacked us and played more aggressive and wanted it more than we did.
“You got to commend Utah. They did a very good job of how they were going to attack us. They limited us with their defense. They iced us, forced us (into bad shots).”
The first 20 minutes were fairly sloppy as both teams turned the ball over seven times. Utah looked its best with Bibbins on the floor. He created easy baskets for teammates and scored a first-half high eight points.
The 24 points were a season low in the first half for Washington.
“I think that’s what helped them toward the end, is the beginning and how they started,” Washington guard Michael Carter III said. “They came out ready to play and we didn’t.”
Washington: The Huskies are now 0-4 when shooting under 40 percent. The Utes had a lot to do with that, but Washington never found any flow and was never able to string together three consecutive baskets or make a significant run.
Utah: This is how the Utes have to win conference games — in a workman-like fashion. Utah doesn’t have an NBA type on the roster that can just go get a basket when needed. It must play staunch defense and get contributions from everyone on offense.
“I think it was a must-win,” Tillman said about ending the losing streak.
Washington: Travels to face Colorado on Saturday.
Utah: Hosts Washington State on Sunday.
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