SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – With all the talk about the Rose Bowl bound Utah football team, the Runnin’ Utes basketball team has been shot out of a cannon at the start of Pac-12 play.
Obviously it’s a great start,” head coach Craig Smith said. “But that is what it is, it’s a start. Certainly 2-0 is a lot better than 0-2.”
The Utes began conference play with a dominating 81-66 victory over #4 Arizona, the Utes first win over a top-5 team since it beat #1 Alabama 20 years ago.
“Those last five minutes to get up 17, you knew they were going to come out and make a run.” Smith said. “They won the title a year ago for a reason. We took some haymakers there in the second half, but we were able to stay poised and kind of run away with it.”
For the first time in a long time, the Huntsman Center was rocking that night.
“In our short time being here, I thought that was the loudest that the Huntsman has been,” Smith said.
Then to follow that historic win with an overtime victory at Washington State speaks to the toughness and resiliency of this young Utes team.
“The way we ended up winning that game, down six minutes to go, it gives you confidence,” Smith said. “When your guys look at each other in a huddle, they can look at each other and know that we’ve been down this road before and found ways to win. That matters. You’re not just talking the talk. You’re walking the walk.”
The Utes are getting key contributions from several guys, but perhaps none bigger than Rollie Worster, who just became the first Utes player to earn Pac-12 Player of the Week honors in almost two years.
Worster nearly recorded a triple-double with 12 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists against Arizona. Worster then had 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists against the Cougars.
“He’s performed,” said Smith, who also coached Worster at Utah State. “And he just cares about winning. The guy just wants to win and compete, and he loves to compete. It’s funny, individual awards come when your team does well. So for us to go 2-0 last week and for him to be honored that way I think is a great compliment to him, but it speaks volumes to our team.”
Utah (7-2, 2-0 Pac-12) next hosts Jacksonville State Thursday night at 8:00 p.m. at the Huntsman Center.