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Second-half surge carries Utah past Stanford

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LAS VEGAS — Literally and figuratively, it was all about rebounding for No. 17 Utah on Thursday night.

Bouncing back from a sluggish ending to the regular season, and recovering from being outrebounded by nearly a 2-1 margin in the first half, the Utes turned a 39-34 halftime deficit into an 80-56 rout of Stanford in the Pac-12 quarterfinals at MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Dominating the sixth-seeded Cardinal by a staggering 29-5 on the glass in the second half, third-seeded Utah (24-7) emphatically avoided taking a fourth loss in six games and advanced into Friday night’s second semifinal against Oregon.

“In the first half, they were getting two and three offensive rebounds,” Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “They just played harder. In the second half, we got them to miss, and they had one chance at it.”

And about 12 minutes into the second half, the Cardinal (19-13) had no chance. Guard Delon Wright’s 3-pointer from the right wing wrapped up a 30-10 run that gave Utah a 64-49 lead.

It was the last of Wright’s team-high 20 points. The 6-foot-5 senior tallied 10 in the Utes’ game-changing spurt.

“We were kind of sluggish,” Wright said, “so I just tried to hit some shots and rebound and get some assists and try to get some things going.”

Forward Jordan Loveridge added 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Center Jakob Poeltl scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half after being limited to five first-half minutes due to foul trouble.

What’s more, Poeltl fouled out Stanford center Stefan Nastic, who powered his way to 11 first-half points but couldn’t deal with a fresh foe after halftime. Nastic was held scoreless after the break.

“The reality of it was that Stanford played last night and played some guys some high minutes,” Krystkowiak said. “That’s part of the benefit of finishing in the top four of your league and getting a bye.”

Guard Chasson Randle tallied a game-high 22 points for the Cardinal, a surprise regional semifinalist last season that is likely NIT-bound on Sunday night.

Stanford made just six of 24 attempts after halftime. By contrast, the Utes sank eight 3-pointers.

“I really think they outcompeted us on the boards,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. “They were a little more physical than us in the second half.”

Utah ended with a 39-24 rebounding edge, and it outshot Stanford from the floor, 50 percent to 37.3 percent. The Utes also connected on 12 of 19 3-point tries (63.2 percent), while the Cardinal hit just five of 14 (35.7 percent) from long range.

The Utes got off to a slow start. Stanford established a 13-6 lead when guard Marcus Allen drove for a layup.

The Utes rallied behind Loveridge, who scored eight consecutive points in a 66-second span. When center Dallin Bachynski scored on a jump hook, Utah owned a 22-16 edge.

However, the Cardinal responded by scoring on seven straight possessions in the half’s last five minutes. Randle’s two free throws with 45.6 seconds remaining sent Stanford to the locker room with a 39-34 lead.

NOTES: Utah’s average margin of victory (16.3 points per game) ranked fourth in Division I through the regular season. … Stanford G Chasson Randle entered the night as the third-leading scorer in school history with 2,235 points. … The Utes’ 15 victories by 20 points or more are the most in Division I.

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

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