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Tempe, Ariz • The Utes found their lead dwindling Saturday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center in the final minute, their coach sidelined with a back that had just given out. They needed to make free throws when 25 feet away, students wearing unicorn masks were jumping out from behind Arizona State's famed Curtain of Distraction.

Considering the adversity, Utah couldn't quibble with how it stuck the landing in its first road win of the season.

The Utes (11-4, 2-1) knocked off the Sun Devils for the fifth straight time, clinching an 88-82 win with blistering 69 percent second-half shooting and making six of their final eight free throws. They managed to do it as coach Larry Krystkowiak's back seized up, forcing him out of the huddle as the training staff worked on him.

Junior Kyle Kuzma bounced back from an underwhelming night at Arizona to score a career-best 26 points, 19 of them coming after halftime.

Was it a graceful finish? Depends on how you look at it, assistant coach Tommy Connor said.

"We made free throws when we had to, right?" he said. "We got the ball in bounds when we had to, which has been a problem at times. We made stops when we had to. It was a heck of an ending for us, to be quite honest."

Utah had been hunting for a road win after falling in Tucson on Thursday, and Kuzma led the way. For the first eight minutes of the second half, the 6-foot-9 forward was near unguardable, scoring both on dunks and shots by the rim and also hitting three of his four attempts from deep.

Of his 11-for-17 night, Kuzma joked: "I've never hit three 3s in a game."

But Kuzma said the key for him was staying aggressive. He hit the 3-pointers against ASU that he had missed against the Wildcats. Teammates found him as Utah piled up 15 second-half assists (after only five in the first half).

"The difference is the shots just fell this game," Kuzma said. "We made a lot of great plays at the end of the game."

Around him, others found a rhythm as well. Junior guard JoJo Zamora (18 points) helped carry the team through a first-half slump, as ASU went on a 23-5 run that saw them lead by as much as 10. Junior forward David Collette notched 18 points as well, charging hard in the paint in the second half as Utah broke down the Sun Devils' late full-court press.

Freshman Devon Daniels followed up a double-digit Arizona game with 15 points in Tempe, including hitting a pair of 3-pointers to double his total for the year. As a team, Utah was 8 for 16 from beyond the arc — ASU took 11 more attempts for the same number of threes.

"We knew that going in: There's nice, soft rims, and it's a shooter's gym," Connor said. "We have good shooters. It's seeing the ball go in the basket for some of the guys, and we had some guys see it go in."

But it wasn't easy to close out: Kuzma missed the front end of two one-and-ones at the line in the final 1:05, giving ASU an opening to cut a six-point lead to two on a pair of Tra Holder free throws and an Obinna Oleka dunk.

But fouls sent Lorenzo Bonam to the line, where he made three of four. Utah clinched the win when Zamora knocked down a pair, then ASU missed a 3-pointer and Kuzma picked up a block with four seconds remaining.

The series has been recently defined by Utah blowouts, with ASU falling in the previous four meetings by double digits. But for a group that has taken some time to blend, the Utes will take a win any way they can get it.

"Feels good," Zamora said. "Hopefully we can keep this for the next game."

Twitter: @kylegoon —

Utah 88, Arizona St. 82

UTAH (11-4)

Collette 7-12 4-5 18, Kuzma 11-17 1-5 26, Zamora 7-9 2-2 18, Daniels 6-8 1-2 15, Bonam 2-7 3-4 7, Rawson 0-3 1-2 1, Johnson 0-1 0-0 0, Van Dyke 0-0 0-0 0, Barefield 1-3 0-0 3, Bealer 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 34-62 12-20 88.


Oleka 4-9 0-0 8, Vila 2-3 1-2 5, Evans 9-16 2-3 21, Holder 6-15 3-4 16, Justice 5-11 4-5 17, Tshisumpa 0-0 0-0 0, Graham 6-13 0-0 15, O'Field 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 32-67 10-14 82.

Halftime—Arizona St. 37-34. 3-Point Goals—Utah 8-16 (Kuzma 3-4, Daniels 2-3, Zamora 2-4, Barefield 1-2, Bealer 0-1, Bonam 0-2), Arizona St. 8-27 (Graham 3-6, Justice 3-7, Evans 1-5, Holder 1-6, Oleka 0-3). Fouled Out—Oleka. Rebounds—Utah 37 (Kuzma 12), Arizona St. 27 (Oleka 13). Assists—Utah 20 (Bonam 7), Arizona St. 13 (Justice 5). Total Fouls—Utah 16, Arizona St. 20. Technicals—Collette.