This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
As has become his go-to move, Josh Watkins threw himself repeatedly into Washington State defenders Thursday. Time and again, he split the guards, ducked into the lane, drove his shoulder into a taller defender and flipped the ball toward, but usually not into, the basket.
With 17 seconds remaining in regulation, he split the guards, ducked into the lane and did an unexpected thing: He stopped at the elbow and he shot.
As time dripped away in the overtime period Watkins forced, he did it again. He stopped and he shot.
In that span, the Utes' brash and reckless point guard matured, and the University of Utah men's basketball team labeled the worst ever won a Pac-12 game.
Utah 62, Washington State 60.
Coaches all week pounded into Watkins' mind the message of not making plays harder than necessary. But near the end of the second half, it hadn't registered, and he had missed six straight shots.
Then it clicked.
"That was all on my mind," said Watkins, who led the Utes with 20 points. "I would get one of my teammates open, or I'm penetrating, or rise and take the shot."
It was a dramatic turnaround for Utah (4-10, 1-1). Five days earlier the Utes lost by 40 points at Colorado, and first-year coach Larry Krystkowiak turned his postgame speech to the team into a profanity-laced lecture.
Thursday there was no berating. Just celebrating.
Of course, in typical Ute fashion, the win wasn't without a great deal of hardship.
The Utes shot 50 percent in the first half, committed just three turnovers and held a 29-23 lead at halftime, nearly matching its 33-point total against Colorado.
In the second half, though, the Utes opened with three consecutive turnovers and the Cougars (9-6, 1-2) went on a 10-3 run.
"The reason that it slipped away and felt like it was slipping away," Krystkowiak said, "was because we were complacent coming out of the locker room at halftime."
At one point, the Utes trailed by as many as eight points. With Watkins throwing up wild shots, the game felt out of reach for a team that so far this season had shown little resilience and had almost clutch-time experience.
Chris Hines made a 3-pointer with 3:21 remaining to cut Washington State's lead to 52-49, but on Washington State's next possession, forward Brock Motum, who led all scorers with 27 points, completed a three-point play.
But that would be all for Washington State before overtime. Cedric Martin pulled Utes back within two with a 3, and Watkins made his first-of-two elbow jumpers with 17.3 seconds remaining.
In overtime, the Utes tied the game on a jumper by Hines with 45 seconds remaining. Reggie Moore missed a driving layup for the Cougars and the Utes went the other way, Watkins controlled the ball.
He later said he was looking for Hines, but the junior was guarded.
So Watkins split the guards, ducked into the lane and …
He turned to his new go-to move.
Utah 62, Washington State 60 (OT)
R Utah wins its first conference game as a member of the Pac-12.
• Jason Washburn scored 11 points, while Dijon Farr contributed 10 for the Utes.