Runnin’ Utes Return Home for Another Challenging Week

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University of Utah men’s basketball player, Timmy Allen (#1), attempts a 3pt shot in the game against the Idaho State Bengals on Dec. 8, 2020 in the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ethan Pearce, Sports Writer

 

The University of Utah men’s basketball team is looking to get back on track after dropping their last two matchups on the road. Utah sits at 4-3 overall and 1-2 in Pac-12 play. They’re coming off a loss at USC where the offense couldn’t get anything consistent going and lost by nearly 20 points. Utah has a lot of questions to answer before they figure out their place in the Pac-12.

Last Week

The Utes failed to come up clutch late in a game against UCLA last week. Down two with the shot clock turned off, Utah didn’t even get a shot off as freshman Pelle Larsson threw the ball away as time expired. They ended up losing 72-70 on the road, in a game where they started blazing hot from the field. Utah has had problems putting out consistent offense this year, and there are points where it looks like they have never played together before. They have hot stretches and cold stretches, as any team does, but the Utes seem to take it to an extreme. Ultimately, some ill-timed poor offense doomed Utah in both games last weekend — but more so against UCLA in a game that was very winnable. Utah still has not won a Pac-12 road game since early 2019.

Against USC, it was more of the same. The defense actually played quite well, but only putting up 46 points won’t get it done against a team of the Trojans’ caliber. The Utes only shot 3-22 from three point range, which is a recipe for disaster in today’s world of basketball. The Utes will have to find a way to put some consistent offense out there when jumpers are not falling, because they looked completely lost in the second half on Saturday.

Up Next

Utah now returns home to face the Oregon State Beavers on Wednesday night. The Beavers are 5-3, 1-1 in the Pac-12. They’re coming off a 73-64 win over California. Senior guard Ethan Thompson leads the team in scoring at 17.1 points per game. Sophomore guard Jarod Lucas comes off the bench to score 11.1 points per game, so that will be something to watch in the second unit. The Utes and Beavers are 8-8 all time. The last time they played was in the Pac-12 tournament last March, when Utah senior Alfonso Plummer hit a Pac-12 record 11 three-pointers in the game. Utah ended up losing a close one, 71-69.

From there, Utah remains at home and will play the Oregon Ducks on Sunday afternoon. The Ducks are 8-1, 3-0 in Pac-12 play. Their only loss was their opener against Missouri on Dec. 2. They’ve only played one true road game so far, so this is a test for them to play at Colorado and then at Utah in the same weekend. Senior forward Eugene Omoruyi leads the team with 18.7 points per game, senior guard Chris Duarte adds 16.7 and junior forward Eric Williams Jr. adds 12.7. This is a loaded team and it will be a big challenge for Utah, so they’re hoping to get some momentum going into this one by beating the Beavers on Wednesday.

Utah is capable of beating Pac-12 opponents, but they will have to play more consistently. Rebounding continues to be an issue, the offense inexplicably becomes clunky at random points, and the young players on this team still lack experience. The foundation is there, they’re just waiting to put it all together and live up to what they know they can be. 

The game against Oregon State is on Wednesday, Jan. 6 at 9:00 p.m. MST and Oregon comes to town on Sunday, Jan. 10 at noon MST.

 

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