It might look like a mismatch, but the Utah Utes know better.
The Utes will travel with an edge of extra motivation when they visit Oregon State for a Pac-12 Conference basketball game Thursday night in Corvallis, Ore.
Utah (8-4, 1-1 in Pac-12) has started on a path toward postseason play this season, much as it had 10 months ago when the Utes took a winning record against Oregon State for the first of two meetings over a key 14-day stretch.
The Beavers (2-10, 0-2) are presumably the Pac-12’s worst team, and are all the way down at No. 245 in the NCAA NET rankings. But last February they were just 10-10 and looked very much like an also-ran when the Utes visited. Oregon State raced to a 74-56 victory and used that — and a 75-70 win at Utah two weeks later — as a springboard to one of the greatest runs in school history, all the way to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight.
The Utes, meanwhile, lost six of their last nine games including the Pac-12 tournament.
Despite the absence of leading scorer Branden Carlson (13.7 points) and fellow big man Dusan Mahorcic in its most recent outing on Dec. 21, Utah managed to gain momentum at the end of its nonconference schedule, beating Fresno State 55-50.
Carlson is expected back from COVID-19 protocols to face Oregon State, which in some ways presents a new start for the Utes following the nine-day break.
“You just gotta stay in the moment with things. You can’t live in the past, you can’t live in the future,” senior Marco Anthony said. “We just gotta take it game by game. I feel like we are starting to realize that and take advantage of it.”
The Beavers, meanwhile, would like nothing better than to start over. In fact, they are hoping they did just that with an 83-61 home romp over Nicholls State on Dec. 21, ending a 10-game losing streak.
Warith Alatishe, one of the stars of Oregon State’s season-ending flurry last year, had 15 points and seven rebounds in what he hopes will be a momentum-building performance.
“We needed it a lot. It came at the right time,” he said. “Going forward, we just have to build off it and keep it going.”
Oregon State’s game against Colorado on Saturday has been postponed due to COVID-19 protocols within the Buffaloes’ program.
Oregon State has beaten Utah four times in a row, and has won the last three matchups at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis. The Utes’ last win at Oregon State came Dec. 31, 2017.
Oregon State’s game against Colorado on Saturday has been postponed due to COVID-19 protocols within the Buffaloes’ program. So after Thursday night’s game, the Beavers will be off until Monday when they host Sacramento State ahead of a visit from the Oregon Ducks next Saturday (Jan. 8).
–Field Level Media