LOS ANGELES — Parker Van Dyke’s heroics in Utah’s 93-92 victory at UCLA began with the usual preparation. Like every kid, he explained, he grew up practicing the 3-2-1 mentality — launching shots at a hoop in the driveway or elsewhere as an imaginary clock expires to win a big game.
“But I don’t know if you think you’re ever going to hit one,” Van Dyke said after making a game-winning, buzzer-beating 3-point shot Saturday at Pauley Pavilion. “That was just incredible, but you envision these things as a player, as a competitor, your whole life and for it to happen is incredible. I feel extremely blessed and very lucky.”
Van Dyke’s shot was huge. It wound up being the lead story on ESPN’s SportsCenter and drew a lot of attention on social media.
The magnitude, Van Dyke joked, was nothing like when he may have hit one at the rec center as a sixth-grader.
After getting a pass from Sedrick Barefield, Van Dyke fired off a long 3-pointer that ripped through the net as time expired. It gave the Utes their one and only lead of the game and capped a rally from 22 points down with 12 minutes to go.
“Overall I think it was just a great unselfish play by Sedrick. He drew two guys to him and pitched it back to me,” Van Dyke said. “When you catch the ball with about two seconds left you’ve just got to step up and shoot it. So I jumped up, let it go and it felt great out of my hands.”
A celebration ensued and Van Dyke was quickly embraced by his teammates. It was that kind of finish.
“I’ve never been a part of something like that,” said Barefield, who was screaming so loud that he got a bit nauseous. “So when (Parker) hit it and I looked at him, it was like the most surreal moment ever.”
Barefield expressed the ultimate confidence in Van Dyke — and with good reason.
“Honestly, I say this like every day,” Barefield said. “Every time Parker shoots it I think it’s going in, just because this year I don’t think he’s missed a shot in practice.”
Van Dyke, though, did end with a misfire on a similar shot late in an 84-81 loss at Arizona on Jan. 5.
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said the game-winner at UCLA was “pretty nice redemption.” He had the thought rolling through his mind because Van Dyke was standing in the same spot when he missed the one in Arizona.
Van Dyke recalled a conversation he had with Krystkowiak in Tucson. Krystkowiak told him that “we’ve got all the confidence in the world in you.” It was a great shot to take and Van Dyke had the freedom to take it again down the road.
“I told him I’d hit the next one and he said, 'I know you will,'” Van Dyke noted.
The rest is history, providing what Van Dyke said was a “great memory and great game” for the Utes, who extended their road win streak to four games in improving to 13-10 overall and 7-4 in Pac-12 play. They’re currently tied for second place entering this week’s home games against Arizona and Arizona State.
Van Dyke said he was proud of his teammates for the great effort against UCLA and their “road warrior mentality.” He admits there was some luck involved with the comeback as everything kind of went Utah’s way down the stretch.
Trailing 69-47 with 12 minutes remaining, the Utes chipped away at the deficit. Van Dyke scored all 15 of his points — off of five 3-pointers — during the rally. On the final play, Barefield attacked UCLA’s zone before passing the ball back to Parker for the shot.
“Momentum is a crazy thing,” said Krystkowiak, who acknowledged it was neat to be a part of such an effort. He told his team and the referees that the Utes would come back and that it was “going to be SportsCenter.”
Turns out, the coach was right.24 comments on this story
“So in the back of my mind I was a believer that something crazy could happen,” Krystkowiak said.
The Utes took time to savor the improbable victory. Krystkowiak said they were going to enjoy it and then get back at things on Monday. As usual, they’re determined to finish in the top four and earn a bye in the Pac-12 Tournament.
While Utah has a stellar 5-1 conference record on the road, the Utes are just 2-3 in the Huntsman Center at this point.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to protect our home court,” Krystkowiak said. “That’s what it boils down to.”