Fresh off of an impressive 71-61 upset of then-No. 19 USC, Utah hopes its resurgence is better late than never.
In the aftermath of that Saturday victory, which snapped Utah’s four-game losing streak, the Utes believe they’re capable of putting together a winning streak heading into the final week of the Pac-12 regular season and into the conference tournament. That theory will be put to the test Wednesday night in Salt Lake City against an Oregon State team that’s already handily beaten Utah once this season.
Ethan Thompson had a monster game for the Beavers in their 74-56 victory over the Utes on Feb. 18 — 25 points, eight assists, five rebounds, four steals and two blocks — to go with a strong showing from Warith Alatishe (19 points, nine rebounds, four assists, three steals and four blocks).
Oregon State (13-11, 9-9) enters Wednesday’s game on the heels of sweeping the Bay Area teams — 59-57 over Cal on Thursday, and 73-62 over Stanford on Saturday.
“It was a great weekend,” Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle told OregonLive.com. “Now we’ve got to learn how to handle the success, then move it aside and try to find ways to get better. We have so much in front of us.”
The Beavers already have far surpassed the preseason rankings, which predicted they’d finish last in the Pac-12.
As for the Utes (10-11, 7-10), it helps that they have most of their players available to play, as was the case when Alfonso Plummer (19 points) and Timmy Allen (15) led a strong effort against the Trojans.
Any momentum Utah can get this week will bode well heading into next week’s Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas.
“We need more hands on deck to be able to compete with some of the teams in this conference, and certainly add a little bit of depth, particularly when you move into Vegas,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “If you are fortunate enough to win some games, you are going to need a lot of contributions.”
As the Deseret News pointed out, getting Mikael Jantunen back is “huge.” He helped Utah win three in a row before leaving to join the Finnish national team. During his absence, the Utes were 0-4.
“He is kind of a glue guy for our team, does a lot of the intangibles and little things,” Krystkowiak said. “And just having his minutes back on the court enhances our team, without a doubt.”
The Utes, unfortunately, are still not getting a fully healthy Rylan Jones, who’s battled nagging injuries his sophomore season after a brilliant freshman year.
–Field Level Media