PULLMAN, Wash. (ABC4 Sports) – It wasn’t easy, but the Utes held off Washington State and are now in prime position for a first round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Justin Bibbins scored 24 points, Gabe Bealer poured in 18 points on a career-high six three-pointers, while Tyler Rawson added 15 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to help Utah hold off the Cougars 77-70 on Saturday night.
Utah (17-9, 9-6 Pac-12) used a 17-0 run — as the Cougars were scoreless for six-plus minutes — to make it 33-13 with nearly six minutes left in the first half before taking a 10-point lead into the break.
Rawson, who hit six three-pointers and scored 22 points for the Utes in their last meeting with Washington State (10-16, 2-12 Pac-12), made 3 of 4 from 3-point range, scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the first half on Saturday.
The Utes scored the first seven second-half points and Utah held on from there.
“We are understanding (that) when you play defense, you can be in a lot of games,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said.
WSU threatened several times, cutting its deficit to four with 2:13 to play after Viont’e Daniels hit back-to-back 3’s in a 30-second span. Bibbins answered with an acrobatic jumper in the lane and, after Daniels made a layup, hit two free throws to make it 76-70 with 14 seconds left.
The Utes played without starting shooting guard Sedrick Barefield, who suffered an injury during pre-game warmups, and backup center Jayce Johnson, who injured his foot in Thursday’s win over Washington.
With the victory, Utah holds on to sole possession of fourth place in the Pac-12 behind Arizona, USC and UCLA. The top four teams receive a first round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament next month in Las Veags.
The Utes conclude the regular season with three home games against the Bruins, Trojans and Colorado.