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Loveridge scores 27 in Utes comeback win

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Sports) - Jordan Loveridge scored a career-high 27 points as the Utes come from 15 points down to beat Idaho State, 74-66.
SANDY, Utah (ABC 4 Sports) -  Jordan Loveridge had a career-high 27 points on 10-of-14 shooting -- which included several key baskets down the stretch -- to help Utah came from 15 points down to hold off Idaho State for a 74-66 victory on Tuesday night.

Delon Wright added 15 points and Dakari Tucker chipped in 12 points for the Utes (8-1) who improved to 17-0 all-time in their home arena versus the Bengals.

Tomas Sanchez had 19 points to lead Idaho State (3-3) while Andre Hatchett chipped in 15 points and Chris Hansen added 14. The Bengals lost to a Pac-12 opponent for the second time this season.

Trailing by nine early in the second half, Utah roared back to life by clamping down on defense. The Utes allowed Idaho State to shoot just 34.5 percent (10-of-29) from the field after halftime. It helped open things up on the other end of the floor.

"I challenged our guys," said Krystkowiak. "I said ‘We don't need to get into the final five minutes to start playing. Let's get it to single digits and get into a nice mindset headed into the second half.’"

Tucker hit a pair of 3-pointers to fuel a 18-5 run that put Utah in front at 52-48. When Dallin Bachynski capped the run with a dunk with 9:38 left, Utah looked to be in control.

Idaho State got within a point twice -- the final time on a 3-point play from Chris Hansen to make it 57-56 in favor of Utah -- but the Utes answered with timely baskets down the stretch.

Utah took its largest lead, 70-61, on Loveridge's layup with 2:48 left. The sophomore then made a 3-pointer with 52 seconds remaining to secure the victory after the Bengals clawed back within four.

"I think they were just playing harder than us on both ends in the first half," Loveridge said. "They played good defense, were hitting the shots they wanted and making us turn the ball over. Once we settled down and played our game, we played well."

"A lot of his struggles seemed to be on settling at the 3-point line," Krystkowiak said about Loveridge. "He's a tough matchup at the ‘4’ though and he gets into creases of the defense. It was a matter of time and we knew he'd put together a complete game. He's just a sophomore and he's a student. So there are finals this week also. He's doing fine."

Utah played without much energy on defense in the first half and it opened the door for Idaho State to set a favorable tempo and take control of the game.

The Bengals shot 51.9 percent (14-of-27) from the field and 55.6 percent (5-of-9) from distance before halftime. Idaho State also had a 15-11 edge in rebounds and a 9-4 advantage in points off turnovers.

Utah struggled to hold onto the ball against the Bengal defense. The Utes turned it over eight times in the first half -- with six coming as a direct result of Idaho State steals. The Bengals entered the game leading the Big Sky in steals with 11.4 per game.

The Bengals scored the game's first six points, culminating in a jumper from Jeffrey Solarin. Utah responded to the initial run. The Utes caught and passed Idaho State on back-to-back layups from Loveridge and Wright to take a 15-13 lead with 10:37 left in the first half.

Utah's lead did not last long. Scotty Tyler drained a 3-pointer a minute later to help Idaho State rip off a 22-5 run to take control. Hansen capped the lengthy spurt with another 3-pointer to give the Bengals a 35-20 lead with 3:27 remaining before halftime.

Utah closed the gap a bit before halftime when Loveridge and Brandon Taylor hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cut Idaho State's lead to 37-28 with 1:09 left in the half.

The Utes drew within five, 37-32, after Loveridge made another 3-pointer early in the second half. Idaho State boosted its lead back to nine at 43-34 after Hatchett and Solarin each chipped in a basket and free throw to temporarily contain Utah.

The Utes next host BYU Saturday night at 8:00 p.m.

"It's going to be a great environment," Krystkowiak said about the game against the Cougars. "They have great players and well, we know what it's going to be. Even preparing for this game, they've been on our mind. Let's enjoy tonight, but we are looking forward to Saturday."
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