SALT LAKE CITY — Utah was on the verge of disaster after a 1-3 start to Pac-12 play, especially with seven of the first 11 conference games on the road.
The Utes have responded with five straight wins.
Jakob Poeltl scored 23 points and Utah held on for a 96-74 victory over Stanford on Saturday.
“We’re in some uncharted territory with winning five games in a row,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “So, it’d be crazy for me to deny that. It’s the same mission statement, the same mantra that we’ve talked about. … You’re never as good as you think are and you’re never as bad as you think you are.
“You can’t get complacent.”
The win moves the Utes (17-5, 6-3 Pac-12) a half game behind Oregon and Washington for the conference lead.
Poeltl caught fire in the second half and the Cardinal had no answer for the 7-foot Austrian. He scored 10 straight and 12 of Utah’s 14 points during a second-half stretch that pushed the lead to 14. Stanford never made a significant run afterward.
Kyle Kuzma scored 16 points for Utah, while Brandon Taylor finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
“They were playing well coming into this game and they have a player in the middle that’s one of the best centers in the league,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. “He showed again tonight why he is one of the best centers in our conference. He’s physical in the low post. He’s a capable scorer. He’s big around the basket defensively.
“You have to pick your poison. They have so many threats on the perimeter that can shoot the basketball along with an inside presence like Poeltl. You kind of have to pick and choose how you want to defend that.”
Dorian Pickens and Rosco Allen led Stanford (11-9, 4-5) with 16 points apiece.
“We wanted to come out aggressive in the first half for sure,” Pickens said. “Our defense really hurt us offensively in the second half. Defensively, we weren’t getting the stops we needed and it affected us on the offensive end. We can’t let that happen.”
A Brekkott Champman 3-pointer gave the Utes a 13-point lead in the first half, but the Cardinal put together a run, capped by a Marcus Sheffield layup, and went into halftime trailing 48-39.
“We came out hot because this is our home gym, this is our floor,” Taylor said. “We’ve been practicing, we’ve been shooting a lot, we’ve been putting up a lot of shots in practice. It felt good to see some shots go in at home.”
Stanford: The Cardinal are 0-2 on their current three-game road trip. … The Cardinal beat Utah in Stanford 70-68 in overtime on New Year’s Day. … Allen entered the game scoring 20-plus point in four of the previous six games. … The Cardinal entered the game shooting 29.1 percent from 3-point range. They went 3 of 25 (12 percent) in the game.
Utah: The Utes have won five consecutive Pac-12 games after starting 1-3 in conference. … The Utes had five players score double-figures. … Poeltl is the reigning Pac-12 player of the week and Oscar Robertson national player of the week. He has scored 20-plus points in three consecutive games for the first time in his career. … Utah outrebounded Stanford 37-29.
The Utes had struggled shooting from long range at just 30.9 percent in conference play, but made 8 of 17 (47.1 percent) from behind the arc on Saturday.
Stanford travels to face California on Saturday.
Utah travels to face Oregon State on Thursday.