PULLMAN, Washington — The Utah Utes have struggled out of the gate in the Pac-12 Conference, and Brandon Taylor has struggled all season with his 3-point shooting.
Washington State found both facts difficult to fathom.
Taylor scored 21 points and hit five 3-pointers — both season highs — and Jordan Loveridge added five 3s and a game-high 22 points in the Utes' 92-71 victory over Washington State Thursday night.
The win was the second straight and third in four games for Utah (14-5, 3-3 Pac-12). After failing to score 60 points in any of the previous four games, the Utes shot 55.6 percent from the floor, including 50 percent on 3s (11 for 22).
"They played fantastic," WSU coach Ernie Kent said.
Taylor, a senior guard, was a career 42 percent shooter from 3-point range before this season, was he was hitting just 25.8 percent coming into Thursday's contest. Taylor said coach Larry Krystkowiak's pregame talk in the locker room helped inspire him.
"He was talking about this being a 'revival' (for Utah's season)," Taylor said. "Just going out there and doing what you do best. I took that very personal and said, 'Hey, why not?'"
Taylor buried 5 of 7 shots from 3-point range. Loveridge sank of 5 of 9 treys.
"Loveridge and Taylor played like seniors and just played lights-out basketball with their speed, their quickness, their ball movement and more importantly their confidence," Kent added. "We just had no answers for them on the defensive end of the floor."
The same could be said for WSU's defense against Utah center Jakob Poeltl, a 7-foot sophomore projected to go high in the June NBA draft if he elects to leave school. The Austria native piled up 14 points, five rebounds and five assists. Poeltl and his teammates worked inside with minimal resistance from the Cougars (9-9, 1-5).
"I just think they played really well," said Josh Hawkinson, who scored 16 points to tie Que Johnson for WSU scoring honors. "They made everything they shot, but at the end of the day it comes down to our defense."
Hawkinson added, "I think we just played soft."
The Cougars have yielded 90 or more points in four conference games. WSU's losing streak has reached a season-high of four games. Coincidentally or not, shot-blocking center Valentine Izundu has missed all four games with a foot injury.
"I think he could've had a big impact," Hawkinson said, "but we can't really look at it like that because we didn't have him."
The Cougars were outrebounded 34-24 and outscored 42-24 in the paint before 2,717 spectators. The Utes had a 22-3 advantage in points off turnovers. WSU made 13 turnovers, five more than Utah.
"We've got to play a lot harder and a lot smarter than we did tonight," Kent said.
Utah: Krystkowiak is one of six Pac-12 head coaches who played in the NBA, and he is the only one who also served as a head coach in the NBA. Krystkowiak played nine seasons in the NBA and coached the Milwaukee Bucks for one-plus season, compiling a 31-68 record.
Washington State: The Cougars trailed 43-28 at the half. WSU has trailed by 15 at halftime in three consecutive games.
The Utes started fast and likely would have topped 100 points for the fourth time this season if Krystkowiak had not ordered his team to chew up time off the clock down the stretch.
Utah visits Washington on Sunday.
Washington State hosts Colorado on Saturday.