Runnin’ Utes run over Cougars Thursday

It was one of those nights for the WSU men’s basketball team where there was nothing the team could do to contain Utah on the defensive end of the floor. Whether the Cougars (9-9, 1-5) went man or zone, the Utes (14-5, 3-3) seemed to always have an answer which led to a 92-71 blowout loss for WSU Thursday night in Beasley Coliseum.

With WSU’s leading shot blocker, Valentine Izundu out because of a foot injury, the Utes took advantage and attacked the Cougars at rim early on in the game. The Utes’ began the game hitting 5 of 5 in the paint and did not attempt a 3-pointer until the 15:56 mark in the first half.

“To give up point blank layups was very disturbing to me so to say what was happening the biggest thing is we were very poor at defending the drive all over the floor,” WSU Head Coach Ernie Kent said. “I don’t think anybody really dug in and really shut down a guy that made up his mind that he was gonna drive us. They took us to the hole pretty good the entire game.”

The Utes managed to outscore WSU 42-24 in the paint. Utah sophomore center Jakob Poeltl was part of the reason as to why Utah had success scoring in the paint. When the Cougars tried to matchup Poeltl one-on-one, the 7-0, 248 pound center had ease of getting to the basket. He finished the game with 14 points on 7 of 11 shooting from the field.

“They got a future NBA player down there in Jakob Poeltl,” WSU junior forward Josh Hawkinson said. “He was definitely hurting us because they were hitting on the outside so we couldn’t exactly double down on him so we were kind of in a dilemma from there.”

Hawkinson did all he could to keep this game close early on by scoring seven of WSU’s first 15 points in the game. The closest WSU would reach Utah was 21-15 at 10 minute mark in the first half.

The Utes managed to outscore WSU 22-13 to close out the first half and take a 15 point lead at halftime.

In the second half, the Cougars started to find their groove on offense by tallying 43 points, but still could not contain the Utes who kept hitting shot after shot.

“We bounced back in the second half offensively but the hole was too great,” Kent said. “All we did was exchange buckets. We couldn’t get any string of stops whatsoever and they really controlled the game even though we scored better in the second half.”

Utah seniors Brandon Taylor and Jordan Loveridge each caught fire in the second half. Taylor hit 4 of 5 3-pointers in the half and finished the game with 21 points. Loveridge tallied 11 of his 22 points in the second half. The Utes scored 48 points in the second half.

“We just have to make a commitment and get stops on defense,” WSU redshirt junior guard Que Johnson said. “92 points is too many points to get scored on so we just have to make a commitment on defense every possession.”

Johnson led the way for the Cougars offensively in the second half by hitting 4 of 6 from the field in the half. The Michigan native finished the game with 16 points.

 “I’m hoping those new guys will understand how hard they’ll have to play,” Kent said “Unfortunately they have a game, a team (Colorado) coming in here on Saturday that’s looking to get a split and we’re going to have to play a lot tougher basketball.”

The Cougars will host the Colorado Buffaloes (14-5, 3-3 Pac-12) on Saturday at 6 p.m. in Beasley Coliseum. This game will be televised on Pac-12 Networks.