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Hot-shooting Utah scorches Washington

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SALT LAKE CITY — Taking bad shots is simply not in Utah’s nature as a team.

The Utes grade each shot with a simple 1 to 5 scale. Shots graded at 1 are considered poor shots. Shots graded at 5 are considered excellent. Creating a “5 shot” is the benchmark Utah aims for on each possession.

It is one reason why the Utes lead the Pac-12 in field-goal percentage and rank second in 3-point field-goal percentage and scoring offense.

“We do a great job as a team at not forcing shots a lot,” junior guard Brandon Taylor said. “We’re very patient offensively. We may get sped up and turn the ball over sometimes, but for the most part, we’ve done a good job and we’ve grown so much in having a great pace offensively and getting what we call ‘five shots.'”

Utah certainly had no trouble creating good shots Sunday against Washington. The 12th-ranked Utes beat the Huskies 77-56 largely because they turned up the offensive heat for 40 minutes.

Washington trailed Utah from the opening tip because it could not cool down the Utes from outside. As a team, Utah shot 61.1 percent (11-for-18) on 3-point shots. Overall, Utah hit 28 of 52 attempts from the floor (53.8 percent).

Guard Dakarai Tucker scored a career-high 19 points, and Taylor added 14 for Utah. Tucker and Taylor combined to make eight 3-pointers to give the Utes (16-3, 6-1 Pac-12) their 15th straight home victory dating to last season.

Guard Andrew Andrews had 22 points to lead Washington. Center Robert Upshaw chipped in 13 points, nine rebounds and five blocks for the Huskies, who saw their three-game winning streak end.

The Huskies (14-5, 3-4) cut the deficit to 43-38 early in the second half on three unanswered baskets, culminating in a jumper by Upshaw. That was as close as Washington got before Utah bombarded the Huskies into submission from the perimeter.

“They played good defense,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. “When you’re playing against them on the offensive end, you just have very, very little room for error. You can’t make a mistake because they have multiple shooters out there with that basketball the entire time.”

Starting with a jumper from forward Jordan Loveridge, the Utes ripped off a 23-3 run to put the game out of reach. Utah scored on seven straight possessions during the run — highlighted by three straight Tucker 3-pointers — and took a 66-41 lead with 9:43 remaining.

“It really starts with our guys playing together and trusting each other,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “When we have somebody that forces the issue and forces a shot, it really sticks out like a sore thumb on our team. It’s just not the way that we play.”

Hot shooting helped Utah lead from start to finish in the first half. The Utes shot 60.9 percent (14-for-23) from the field, including 5-for-9 on 3-point shots before halftime.

Utah made baskets on its first four possessions to open the game, highlighted by a 3-pointer from Loveridge that gave him 1,000 points for his career at Utah. It helped his team to an early 10-2 lead.

Guard Delon Wright stole the ball and fed Tucker for a layup to give the Utes their first double-digit lead at 18-7. Utah eventually went up 29-14 on the strength of back-to-back 3-pointers from Tucker and Loveridge.

Washington climbed back into the game behind hot perimeter shooting from Andrews. He made all four 3-pointers he attempted in the first half. The final one capped a 12-2 run that helped the Huskies cut Utah’s lead to 31-26.

The Utes scored baskets on their next three possessions — including back-to-back layups from center Jakob Poeltl — to halt the run and push their lead back to 37-28.

“I thought we were in good shape,” Romar said. “Even early in the second half, I thought we were going to be able to hang on, but then they began to hit threes, some contested and some not contested.”

NOTES: F Jordan Loveridge became the 37th player in Utah history to score at least 1,000 career points. The most recent Ute player to do it was F Jason Washburn in the 2012-13 season. … Before facing Utah, Washington won all five games in

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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