Cardinal men can’t keep up with hot-shooting Utes in Salt Lake City

Jan. 31, 2016, 12:27 a.m.

The Utah Utes (17-5, 6-3 Pac-12) successfully avenged their 2-point loss in overtime to Stanford on New Year’s Day in style, romping the Cardinal (11-9, 4-5 Pac-12) 96-74 on Saturday afternoon at the Huntsman Arena behind an artful offensive display.

After a disappointing two-game stint (Stanford lost 91-75 at Colorado earlier this week), head coach Johnny Dawkins will look to make the Cardinal’s defensive lapses a focus for the team moving forward. Utah’s 96 points are the most that Stanford has given up all season.

“We have to be better,” Dawkins said. “On the defensive end, that’s not our style of play. Two teams scoring 90 points, that’s wrong. We have to focus and be determined.”

Utah had five players score in double figures, led by star center Jakob Poeltl and senior guard Brandon Taylor. Poeltl finished with a dominant 23 points and 7 rebounds on only seven shots. The sophomore phenom hit 13 of his 15 free throw attempts and looked comfortable operating in the paint all night.

“He’s easily one of the best centers in the country, of course,” Dawkins said. “So he demands a lot of attention when the ball gets thrown inside, so that you have to kind of collapse, and then he’ll throw it out to guys who were knocking down shots.”

Stanford was able to keep the game close for much of the first half thanks to solid defensive play. The Cardinal forced seven turnovers in the first period, but Utah caught fire in the later minutes. The Utes shot a scorching 71 percent from the field in the first half with the help of Taylor, who made all four of his shots, including two 3-pointers.

Sophomore Dorian Pickens and senior Rosco Allen both finished with 16 points to lead the Cardinal. Alllen’s recent shooting slump continued, however, as he was only 5-of-17 from the field.

Both players had their hand in ensuring that Utah didn’t run away with the game early. After the Utes mounted an 8-0 run to go up 45-32 with two minutes left in the half, Pickens completed a 3-point play as part of a late push to keep the Utah lead at nine heading into halftime.

Early in the second half, an Allen 3-pointer at the 15-minute mark got Stanford within 11 again. The Cardinal defense was in its usual solid form, holding Utah without a field goal during a three-minute stretch with 10 minutes remaining.

Even so, a stangant Stanford offense was unable to take advantage of the opportunity to close the gap further. The ball movement that generated open looks during the first half vanished, and the Cardinal finished with only 7 assists on the game and shot a paltry 3-of-25 from beyond the arc.

Utah then took control by leaning on Poeltl’s impressive interior play. The senior regularly drew contact and got Utah into the double bonus early. Behind 42 free-throw attempts and balanced inside-outside scoring, the Utes were able to extend their lead in the closing minutes to sink Stanford below .500 in conference play.

The Cardinal now have a week off before facing rival Cal for the second time next Saturday. The game will be aired live on ESPN2 at 1 p.m.


Contact Irving Rodriguez at irodriguez ‘at’

Irving Rodriguez is a beat reporter for men's soccer and basketball. He was born in Mexico, but has lived in Chicago since second grade. He is all too willing to skip homework in order to watch the Chicago Bulls and Manchester United and will defend Derrick Rose until the very end. He likes to write about soccer, basketball and analytics. Irving is a senior majoring in Physics. To contact him, please email irodriguez 'at'

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