If the Utah Utes were looking for a team to help prepare them for their next game, they certainly found a worthy opponent in the Washington Huskies in the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament on Wednesday, March 12.
The Huskies gave the Utes all they could handle and then some, going back-and-forth with Utah for most of the second half -- before the Utes put the Huskies away for good with less than a minute to play in Las Vegas‘ MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Dakarai Tucker’s 3-point shot with about 40 seconds left to play was the difference maker.
“We talked about it on the board before the game was that was going to be the difference is somebody having the trust and faith in the teammate to give up what was -- and Jordan could have shot that. It would have been considered a good shot, and he made a great pass to the corner for Dakarai,” said Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak at the post-game press conference.
Utah now gets the privilege of playing No. 1 seed Arizona in the quarterfinals on Thursday, March 13, a luxury nobody wants right now -- considering the Wildcats have 28 wins, are ranked fourth in the nation and have only lost three games all season.
None of Arizona’s three losses have come against Utah, which compounds the Utes problems for tomorrow’s all-important game.
If it’s any consolation to Utah, the Wildcats did lose their last game of the season to Oregon so perhaps the Utes will have a small window of opportunity.
In the win over Washington no Utah player was stellar, as Delon Wright -- named this week to the Pac-12 All-Conference First Team -- had just 15 points, nine in the second half.
He’ll need to make a bigger impact Thursday afternoon in Las Vegas if the Utes have any chance of knocking off Arizona.
Most experts are saying that Utah must defeat Arizona in order to receive an at-large berth from the NCAA Tournament Committee -- provided they don’t win the whole thing -- because of a low RPI rating.
But a win against the Wildcats will change the Utes’ fortunes -- and have Utah dancing for the first time in years.