This is an archived article that was published on in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Huntsman Center crowd reserved the loudest cheers on Thursday night for the opponent.

As Obinna Oleka broke Arizona State's streak of 14 straight missed shots, he got a round of applause. But even then, it was about to get worse before it got better: After he missed a free throw, Utah senior guard Brandon Taylor hit a 3-pointer, smiling as he skipped back on defense with a 29-point lead in the first half.

In an 81-46 thrashing of Arizona State, the Utes (22-7, 11-5) earned their share of ovations as well. Many of them came on 3-pointers, as the team made a season high 16 of them. Others came on the 8 blocks, the 15 offensive rebounds or the 6 steals.

And several of the cheers came for the hapless Sun Devils, who were overwhelmed by an NCAA Tournament-bound team feeling a particular swagger ahead of a matchup with No. 9 Arizona about 39 hours after they wrapped up their latest conquest and fifth straight victory.

Besides a win, the most valuable thing the Utes earned was rest: Four Ute starters played 23 minutes or less, hoping for fresh legs leading into one of the biggest home games of the season. The Utes stand alone in second place in the Pac-12, hoping to keep that spot after the weekend against the third-place Wildcats — whom they haven't beaten since 1998.

"It's always about the next game," coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "It's a clean slate right now … but I think we all know the magnitude of the situation when you get into the top portion of the league. Games like this, you've got to be pretty darn good and competitive. It's almost March."

A good start would be playing the same, smothering style they presented against Arizona State.

Thursday's win compared favorably with the way the Utes bullied the Sun Devils a year ago, loading up in an 83-41 victory and leading by 32 points at the half.

The key in this one was turnovers: The Sun Devils coughed up 15 of them. By halftime, the Utes had 19 points off of ASU's giveaways, and Utah's 44-10 lead bested their own halftime margin from a year ago by two points.

ASU's top player, sophomore point guard Tra Holder, was in a fog going against his hometown friend Taylor. The Sun Devils' scoring leader was held without a point and suffered nine turnovers.

Without Holder at the rudder, the ship went south for ASU. Utah's zone early in the game was nigh impenetrable, and the shots ASU did get stubbornly rolled out of the rim. Utah held ASU to a season-low 25 percent shooting for the game, hitting more 3-pointers than the Sun Devils did field goals (15).

Snapshots of the score spoke to the lopsidedness: 30-2 at one point in the first half; 64-19 at another point in the second.

More impressively, the Utes did their walloping with only 7 points from All-American candidate and sophomore center Jakob Poeltl, whose mere presence helped draw in defenders and open up shooters. Utah's leading scorer was sophomore Brekkott Chapman, bringing 15 points off the bench.

"I think it's tough for teams to come in when you've seen Jakob do what he does night-in and night-out," said senior Jordan Loveridge, who had 14 points, all in the first half. "They tried to kind of live with outside shots, and we're a great shooting team. It was tough. They kind of picked their poison."

From the start, it was a one-way contest.

The Utes hit their first five attempts from the 3-point line, spotting themselves a 15-0 lead before the Sun Devils could even get much of a look at the rim. Loveridge outscored ASU by himself in the first half, netting nine points in the first three minutes of the game — all on 3-pointers.

After Oleka scored ASU's first basket at the 15:21 mark, it would be 10 minutes until the visitors scored again. In the interim, the Sun Devils missed 14 straight shots, allowing Utah back-to-back 15-0 runs.

While the Utes' 44 percent from the floor ended a streak of seven straight games shooting above 50 percent, Krystkowiak was impressed by his defense. It will take that kind of effort to win Saturday on a short turnaround.

"I think we have a formula for winning basketball," Krystkowiak said. "And that's the thing: Let's come out on Saturday and win the first four minutes, and then keep it kind of simple. It's not an elephant in the room. It's pretty defined what we have to do."

Twitter: @kylegoon —


R Utes tie program record of 40 attempts from 3-point range, hitting 16.

• ASU shoots only 25 percent in the game.

• Brekkott Chapman has 15 points to lead the Utes.