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No. 22 Utah rolls over Arizona State

By John Coon, The Sports Xchange   |   Feb. 26, 2016 at 12:55 AM

SALT LAKE CITY -- Teams facing Utah are finding out that focusing defensive efforts exclusively on stopping center Jakob Poeltl isn't always the best strategy. The Utes can just as easily burn a team from the perimeter.

Arizona State learned that lesson the hard way. No. 22 Utah made 16 3-pointers -- one shy of matching a school record set against UNLV in 2002 -- and led wire-to-wire in an 81-46 victory over the Sun Devils on Thursday night.

The onslaught began in the opening minutes when forward Jordan Loveridge and guard Brandon Taylor combined to make five 3-pointers on Utah's first six possessions. It gave the Utes a 15-0 lead before the game was four minutes old.

"They tried to kind of live with outside shots," Loveridge said. "We're a great shooting team, so it was tough to (stop us). They kind of picked their poison. It was good guys found me and Brandon early. We knocked them down early."

Forward Brekkott Chapman scored 15 points and Loveridge added 14 points to lead Utah (22-7, 11-5 Pac-12) to its fifth straight victory. Taylor scored 12 points and forward Dakarai Tucker added 10 points for the Utes. Utah also earned a fourth straight win over the Sun Devils dating back to the 2013-14 season.

Guard Gerry Blakes scored 10 points and forward Obinna Oleka collected 16 rebounds to lead Arizona State. Leading scorer Tra Holder, who averaged 15.1 points per game, was held scoreless on 0-of-6 shooting and he committed nine turnovers.

"Our defense was what I was really impressed with," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "We did a nice job on their leading scorer, Tra Holder, a guy that kind of is the head of the snake for them. We were aware of where he was and came out focused, really in all phases of the game."

The Sun Devils (14-14, 4-11) dropped their third straight game after shooting 25 percent from the field and committing 15 turnovers. Utah outscored ASU 25-2 in points off turnovers.

Utah couldn't miss from the perimeter out of the gate and never really cooled down as the game progressed. On the other end, the Utes completely stifled Arizona State's offense for the first 20 minutes.

The Sun Devils missed 17 of their first 18 shots from the field and committed 12 turnovers before halftime. Utah took full advantage. The Utes turned Arizona State's turnovers into 21 points and quickly buried the Sun Devils.

"We were like a boxer that took one on the chin early in the game," ASU coach Bobby Hurley said. "We didn't recover quick enough."

Utah held Arizona State without a field goal for 10:13 before a layup from Oleka broke the ice with 5:08 left in the half. During that stretch, the Utes ripped off another 15-0 run. Loveridge collected a rebound off his own 3-pointer and buried a jumper to cap the run and give Utah a 30-2 lead.

The Utes pushed their lead to 44-8 on back-to-back baskets from guard Lorenzo Bonam and center Jakob Poeltl just before halftime.

"It just makes both ends easier when you're pushing the pace and you're getting stops," Loveridge said. "We know at this time of the year that's going to be a big part of keeping us playing basketball. If we want to keep playing, we got to get some stops."

The Utes led comfortably from wire-to-wire. At one point, they were ahead by as many as 45 points after Chapman made back-to-back 3-pointers to put Utah up 64-19 midway through the second half.

"They're a complete team," Hurley said. "They have players that really value their roles and understand how to play their roles. They have a guy that's pretty dominant inside that you have to give a lot of attention to and then their other players play well off of him."

NOTES: Arizona State has lost 10 straight road games to Utah. The Sun Devils last won in Salt Lake City when they beat the Utes 96-93 on Jan. 11, 1975. ... Utah F Jordan Loveridge moved past Manny Hendrix for 15th place among Utah's career scoring leaders. ... The Sun Devils came into the game averaging 8.1 made 3-pointers, tied for first in the Pac-12 with USC. ASU went 5-of-22 (23 percent) from outside against the Utes. ... Utah G Brandon Taylor earned his 400th career assist on Loveridge's first 3-pointer of the game.

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