SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Larry Krystkowiak didn’t want his team to worry about offense on Thursday night, so, naturally, Utah went out and had its most efficient offensive night of the Pac-12 season.
The Utes (14-9, 6-6 Pac-12) broke a two-game skid while the Cardinal (13-12, 7-5) watched a two-game win streak end.
“I really thought we just guarded them,” Krystkowiak said. “As I mentioned to our team, sometimes if you really focus on playing defense, it’s a crazy thing in basketball, but there’s a correlation that sometimes that team doesn’t guard you as hard. Because you kind of steal their thunder. I thought the offense took care of itself.”
Bibbins finished 7 for 9 from the field, including 4 for 4 from behind the arc, as Utah shot 50.0 percent from the field — a season high in conference play. Sedrick Barefield added 17 points and David Collette chipped in 13.
Reid Travis scored a Stanford-high 16 points and had 10 rebounds while Daejon Davis posted 14 points.
“Before the game me and Justin were telling each other if we just focus on the defensive end we’ll be free-flowing on the offensive end,” Barefield said. “That has to be our M.O. and we’ve got to really lock in on defense.”
Utah went into halftime with a 40-28 lead powered by a 14-2 run that put the Utes up 36-22. Bibbins and Collette combined for 20 first-half points while shooting 8 for 9 from the field. The Utes’ 55.2 shooting percentage was a season high for the first 20 minutes during Pac-12 play.
A 14-0 second-half run punctuated by a Bibbins triple gave the Utes a 67-44 lead and put the game away.
“Early on, we played without any pace at all,” Stanford coach Jerod Haase said. “Their zone defense, which they played basically the entire game, got us stagnant. We emphasized pace and I thought we had a good plan of attack, but we did not execute it. … At no point did we have a comfort level against the zone.”
The Cardinal entered the night as the second-best shooting team in Pac-12 play (49.3 percent), but the Utes held them to just 30.8 percent from the field in the first half. The normally efficient shooting was off all night and Stanford finished at 35.8 percent.
“This isn’t going to be the first or last team that’s going to zone us like that,” Travis said. “We’ve got a lot of talented players that can do a lot of things one on one, so it makes sense why teams want to zone and take that away.
“For us, we just got to make teams pay. We got to move the ball fast and we got to be more aggressive.”
The Utes were without leading rebounder and fourth-highest scorer Donnie Tillman, who sat on the bench in street clothes. Krystkowiak said it wasn’t disciplinary, but a private issue where he needs a little break and “a combination of getting some classwork squared away, getting his body squared away and getting his mind in the right spot.”
Stanford: The Cardinal entered the night tied with UCLA for the No. 4 spot in the Pac-12 standings and lost ground in the race for a first-round bye in the conference tournament. The night began with eight teams having between three and six conference losses and Stanford still has to play Arizona, Washington and Arizona State.
Utah: The Utes are confident they can move up into a top-four seed and a first-round bye in the tournament. Thursday was big step in that direction, gaining a full game on the Cardinal. Utah has four games remaining against teams in front of them in the standings that are also fighting for that bye.
Stanford: Travels to face Colorado on Sunday.
Utah: Hosts California on Saturday.
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