SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak acknowledges he doesn’t have NBA-ready players on the roster, but knows his team can be successful when everyone contributes. The Utes got exactly that Sunday night and are now back to .500 in Pac-12 play after a rough first half of January.
The Utes (12-7, 4-4) won their second consecutive game for the first time since late December and the Cougars (9-10, 1-6) have now lost 6 of 7.
“That’s the definition, the essence of a team,” Krystkowiak said. “The whole thing is keeping guys engaged. It’s going to a variety of different guys. … When your time comes, jump in there and get after it.
“We may not have NBA guys, but we can get a lot done if we’re tied in to each other.”
Utah got contributions from some unlikely faces en route the double-digit victory. It never trailed.
Rawson went 6 for 7 from 3-point range after not scoring in double digits the last three games. The 22 points were his second-highest total of the season and the most since Dec. 20.
“The hoop was a little bit more open than it was last week, that’s for sure,” Rawson said. “(Bibbins) and the other guys did a great job of finding me and I was able to convert on open shots. The key for me was staying confident after having a frustrating week last week.
“The first one went in for me and that’s when (Krystkowiak) started calling some plays for me and they kept going in. So he kept calling plays (for me). Coach does a good job of playing the hot hand.”
Guard Sedrick Barefield came off the bench for the first time during Pac-12 play and found the shooting touch that had disappeared as he was a combined 1 for 16 in the previous three games. The junior finished with 14 points.
Forward Gabe Bealer was aggressive and surpassed his point totals from Utah’s previous six games. His 15 points were the most since scoring a season-high 20 in the second game of the year.
The reliable Justin Bibbins added 13 points and season-high 12 assists.
“We never had a defined scorer on this team and a go-to guy,” Bibbins said. “I got hot a couple games, but when everyone is going and everyone is flowing and in a groove, that’s when we’re at our best. We’re happy we’re getting back to that basketball.”
Washington State trailed by 42-32 at halftime, but cut the lead to six points after a 7-0 run early in the second half. The Utes however answered with a 14-5 run that essentially put the game away.
“I thought there were several defensive breakdowns,” Washington State coach Ernie Kent said. “We tried to do a couple of different things to offset that, but our focus and attention to detail on that end of the floor was not there tonight and they made us pay.
“Everything, to me, came back to what went on at the defensive end of the floor. When we can get stops and get out and run, we’re very good. When we don’t, we become a stagnant offensive team.”
Malachi Flynn (19 points) Robert Franks (18 points) carried the load for Washington State.
Washington State: The Cougars live and die by the 3-pointer and the long ball (9 for 25) kept them alive against the Utes when the game could have been uglier. Defense, however, continues to be an issue and WSU struggled to get stops.
Utah: The Utes didn’t have to rely so much on Bibbins and Dave Collette to carry the scoring load and even survived limited minutes for Donnie Tillman due to foul trouble. Utah needs more nights like this where Barefield and Bealer have strong offensive nights.
“The point of the game is to score. When you can’t score, it’s kind of hard to keep up with the other team,” Flynn said.
Washington State: Travels to face rival Washington on Jan. 28.
Utah: Travels to face No. 16 Arizona State on Thursday.
Stats: Utah 82, WSU 69
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