Another game, another double-digit win.
No. 8 Utah beat Arizona State, 76-59, on the road Thursday, taking a 40-23 halftime lead and cruising thereafter.
“The biggest thing that’s helped us so far is being able to defend and out-rebound teams,” Utah forward Jordan Loveridge said on Ferrall on the Bench. “Mostly on the defensive end when we get stops, (our offense) and the rest of the game becomes a lot easier. We’ve been trying to defend teams 40 minutes. If we try to play as hard as we can and defend, I think we’ll have a chance in every game.”
Loveridge finished with 14 points, eight rebounds, one assist and one steal in the win, while Delon Wright and Brandon Taylor combined for 34 points, eight assists, four rebounds and four steals.
“Those two, they’re always fun to play with,” Loveridge said. “When you got guys like that on the floor, it’s hard to defend a team where you have multiple threats on the floor. You can’t really help off of any guys. You can get stung by a lot of guys – and definitely inside, too. You can’t not guard those guys inside. So it’s a problem everywhere when you have a team of guys that can hurt you in any game.”
Arizona State had no answer for Wright, who finished with six assists and got to the foul line 12 times. Even more impressive? He made all 12 free throws, as Utah shot 23-of-30 (76.7) from the line – not to mention 22-of-41 (53.7 percent) from the field.
If you shoot 53.7 percent from the field and go to the line 30 times, you’re not going to lose many games. Utah even shot 9-of-17 (52.9 percent) from three-point range for good measure.
“Early in the season, we struggled from the (foul) line,” Loveridge said. “But we’ve always been able to get there. It’s just been knocking them down when we do get there. Tonight we shot good from the line. We shot good from the field. It’s tough when we’re defending like we do and we’re hitting our shots.”
Utah (14-2) has now won seven straight games since losing to Kansas, 63-60, on Dec. 13. All seven wins have come by double digits. In fact, Utah’s average margin of victory during this stretch is 23 points.
The Utes rank sixth in the country in field-goal percentage, hitting 50.3 percent of their shots, and tenth in scoring defense, allowing just 55.3 points per game. They also rank in the top 30 in rebounds and blocks.
Utah will have a stiff test this Saturday, when they face No. 10 Arizona (15-2) in Tucson at 7 p.m. ET.
“I think we should do well,” Loveridge said. “We’re a deep team. We got a lot of guys that can do a lot of things. We’re a tough team. They’re a tough team. It should be a fun game. If we defend like we have been and play as hard as we have, I think we’ll have a great chance of winning.”