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Tempe, Ariz • Delon Wright's career will be long remembered after he leaves Utah, and at least one of many stories will lead off like this: "He once missed seven shots and still led the team in scoring."
It's that kind of charmed season for the No. 8 Runnin' Utes (14-2, 4-0 Pac-12) and Wright, who demolished last-place Arizona State, 76-59, on Thursday night without ceremony. The win, Utah's seventh in a row, keeps the program on schedule for a much-hyped top-10 showdown Saturday in Tucson against powerhouse Arizona.
The Ute crew did not get caught looking ahead at Wells Fargo Arena, making short work of the Sun Devils. The formula is becoming familiar: An ironclad defense, an efficient offense, a healthy dose of Wright made for another conference blowout.
Wright led the way with 21 points despite a 4-for-11 shooting effort. The senior guard's touch was a little off his normal night, but he did his damage at the free throw line, where he was an icy cold 12 for 12.
He also dished out 6 assists, but it was the free throws Utah has struggled mightily at the line as a team that relieved him the most.
"That was better than hitting a three," he said. "I've been having issues with free throws this year, and it was good to come out and not miss one."
Utah has started the year beating each of their Pac-12 foes by at least 17 points, and by an average of 24.5 points per game.
The strongest common thread remains defense: Arizona State was the fourth straight team to shoot under 40 percent, struggling to crack the paint after finding early success there. Only only one Sun Devil, Gerry Blakes, cracked double digit points with 10. ASU's struggles only increased as its big men Eric Jacobsen, Savon Goodman and Jonathan Gilling dealt with foul trouble in the second half.
There was also offensive balance for Utah. Jordan Loveridge chipped in 14 points and 8 rebounds, while Brandon Taylor scored 13 points with a pair of assists and a pair of steals.
Larry Krystkowiak dismissed the notion all week that the Utes were looking ahead to the Wildcats. He beamed outside the locker room after the game, when his squad had backed up his words.
Now, there's nothing but Arizona dead ahead. Come to think of it, Krystkowiak said, he might've liked it a little better when Utah was preparing for the Sun Devils.
"I don't think anybody ever looks forward to going there [to the McKale Center]," he said. "We haven't had a lot of success there in terms of wins. The stage is going to be set, and it's going to be a heck of a college environment. We're going to have to be really good going in there."
Thursday's game started off with an ugly, plodding rhythm, with only one fast break basket a Wright steal and dunk in the game. Utah's typically stout defense inside the paint cracked against Arizona State's pick-and-roll attack.
But with only a one-point lead, Utah locked down. Over nearly a 10-minute stretch, Arizona went 2 for 11 with six points while the Utes went on 8-0 and 10-0 runs between Sun Devil baskets.
It also helped that Utah, the No. 255-ranked free throw shooting team in the country, was a perfect 12 for 12 from the line in the first 20 minutes. Wright hit six straight in the last minute of the half alone. The Utes finished 23 for 30 from the line.
P Delon Wright scores 21 points, including 12-of-12 on free throws
• Jordan Loveridge addes 14 points and 8 rebounds
• Utah holds Arizona State to 39.3 percent shooting from the floor