- Associated Press - Monday, February 24, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Nothing fires up a defense faster than getting blocked shots. It didn’t take long for Utah to turn the first few minutes of its game against Arizona State into a block party.

Utah blocked five shots in the game’s first 3 minutes and had eight by halftime. By game’s end, the Utes had accumulated a season-high 12 blocks in their 86-63 victory on Sunday night.

Delon Wright scored 22 points, collected nine rebounds and had six assists to lead the Utes and help them snap a two game losing streak.

“They knew they weren’t just going to be able to come into the paint and just get up shots,” Wright said. “When we blocked a ton of their shots, it really messed with them mentally.”

Jordan Loveridge added 18 points and six rebounds, Renan Lenz had 14 and Princeton Onwas 12 for the Utes. Utah (18-9, 7-8 Pac-12) dominated around the basket from start to finish on both ends of the court. The Utes outrebounded the Sun Devils 44-36 and had a 38-26 edge in points in the paint.

Shaquielle McKissic had 16 points, while Egor Koulechov and Bo Barnes added 11 apiece for Arizona State (19-8. 8-6), which has lost two straight after winning six of its previous seven games. It was the most lopsided defeat for the Sun Devils in Pac-12 play this season.

Arizona State shot just 30.8 percent from the field and made 6 of 27 from distance. Leading scorer Jahii Carson was held to just eight points on 3-of-13 shooting.

“We played horrible basketball,” ASU coach Herb Sendek said. “I have no explanation, you would have to ask them. We didn’t make plays, we didn’t defend, we couldn’t make shots or free throws. It is really inexplicable, we played a dismal performance.”

Utah endured no such trouble finding an offensive rhythm. The Utes shot 53.8 percent from the field and hit 25 of 35 from the free throw line.

The Utes ran off 11 unanswered points and staked out an early 14-4 lead. Utah got the run going with a 3-pointer from Brandon Taylor and Jeremy Olsen punctuated the spurt with a layup to give the Utes their first double-digit lead.

“We just came out strong,” Lenz said. “We did what our coaches told us to do, which was just play our game and play our defense. Our defense set the tone for the game.”

It got worse for Arizona State before halftime. Lacking any momentum on offense, the Sun Devils struggled to keep pace with Utah. Arizona State shot just 26.5 percent from the field in the first half.

Utah did not waste any time taking advantage. The Utes strung together an 18-3 run over nearly 6 minutes culminating in a 3-pointer from Loveridge. It pushed their lead to 38-12 with 6:52 remaining before halftime.

Utah carved out its largest first-half lead when Taylor drilled another 3-pointer with 49 seconds left to put the Utes ahead 50-23.

Arizona State chipped away at the lead in the second half. The Sun Devils used an 8-0 run to threaten a comeback against Utah. Koulechov punctuated the run with a 3-pointer, trimming Utah’s lead to 61-48 with 10:22 remaining.

Loveridge buried 1 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to halt the run and get the Ute offense back on track. It marked the beginning of an 18-5 spurt for Utah that gave the Utes a 79-53 lead with 3:48 left in the game.

Utah notched its third win over an opponent with a Top-50 RPI this season. It moves the Utes closer to the fringes of battling for an NCAA at-large bid.

“I plan on winning the (Pac-12) tournament in Vegas and then we don’t talk about any selection committee or anything like that,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said.

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