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Simultaneously, Jason Washburn's favorite move in the paint led to Utah's best win of the season while driving a stake through Arizona State's postseason hopes.
His quick spin toward the baseline shook Arizona State's Ruslan Pateev and gave the senior center a clear look at the basket. With the touch of a surgeon, Washburn tossed in a floater to give the Utes their first lead in the last five minutes.
From there, Utah's stirring 60-55 win over ASU at the Huntsman Center was all about defensive stops and free throws. Brandon Taylor knocked down two. Jarred DuBois drew a back-breaking charge on Jahii Carson. Time expired, and Washburn celebrated on the bench like Utah had just won a national championship.
"You guys know how I like to get happy when good things happen," Washburn said. "It felt really good to be on this side of everything. We did what we had to down the stretch and we got one. This feels really good."
The win didn't come before the Utes took their audience of 9,062 through serious ups and downs. A lead through the entire first half morphed into a tight game with 11 minutes remaining. That tight game led to Chris Colvin supplying the Sun Devils with a 49-41 lead with seven minutes remaining, courtesy of a 3-pointer. And finally, there was the 19-6 Utah run to end the game, as impressive a comeback win as the Utes have had this season.
Washburn was at the center of it all, scoring a career-high-tying 26 points while grabbing nine rebounds. Earlier in the year, Washburn hit ASU up for 19 points and 18 rebounds. If possible, this trumped that performance, with all of the clutch plays in the last few minutes. When his team needed it the most, Washburn carried the load.
"Arizona State's big men played me head up all game, because they are all great defenders," Washburn said. "I was able to get comfortable, and I knew that help wasn't coming. I just relaxed and took my time out there."
The win was important for the Utes and devastating for the Sun Devils. ASU entered Wednesday night on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Losing to Utah does nothing for those hopes. Meanwhile, the Utes once again climb out of last place in the Pac-12. They also laid another tangible brick upon the foundation of a winning program that Larry Krystkowiak is doggedly trying to build. And by the end, the Huntsman Center was rocking just like the old days.
"The crowd was huge for us tonight," Krystkowiak said. "For a minute, I didn't think many people knew the game was at 6 p.m., rather than 7. There weren't very many people in the stands. But then I looked up at game time, and it looked full. I was wondering where all of the people came from. That was big for us."
Freshman forward Jordan Loveridge was the only other double-digit scorer for the Utes, with 13 points and six rebounds. But there were monster contributions throughout. Taylor, the freshman point guard, scored all five of his points in the final two minutes. DuBois took the charge on Carson and led Utah with five assists. Cedric Martin's defense was clutch all night.
The Utes have won 11 games, a victory away from doubling the total from last season. One more conference win trumps the 2012 total.
Progress is slow. But there is progress.
"The whole game was back and forth," Loveridge said. "But then we finally started getting some rebounds that we needed, and we were able to come down and make some shots."
O Jason Washburn ties a career high, scoring 26 points with nine rebounds.
• Utah erases a 49-41 deficit in the final seven minutes.
• Utah climbs out of last place in the Pac-12, improving to 3-9 in league play.
Utah 60, Arizona St. 55
ARIZONA ST. (18-7) • Gilling 3-7 0-0 7, Bachynski 1-4 0-0 2, Felix 6-13 0-1 14, Carson 4-11 3-4 12, Gordon 2-7 0-0 6, Colvin 4-8 1-3 10, Jacobsen 0-0 0-0 0, Barnes 0-0 0-2 0, Pateev 2-5 0-0 4. Totals 22-55 4-10 55.
UTAH (11-13) • DuBois 1-6 3-6 5, Loveridge 4-8 2-2 13, Washburn 9-12 8-9 26, Taylor 1-7 2-2 5, Martin 1-4 0-2 3, Dean 0-1 2-2 2, Seymour 0-0 0-0 0, Lenz 2-2 0-0 4, Olsen 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 19-42 17-23 60. HalftimeUtah 29-22. 3-Point GoalsArizona St. 7-22 (Gordon 2-7, Felix 2-7, Carson 1-2, Colvin 1-2, Gilling 1-4), Utah 5-15 (Loveridge 3-5, Martin 1-3, Taylor 1-4, Dean 0-1, DuBois 0-2). Fouled OutCarson. ReboundsArizona St. 33 (Felix 11), Utah 30 (Washburn 9). AssistsArizona St. 10 (Colvin 4), Utah 12 (DuBois 5). Total FoulsArizona St. 20, Utah 12. A9,062.