Runnin’ Utes Buck Trends, Earn Quality Win Over Arizona

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University of Utah junior forward Timmy Allen (1) goes for a layup during an NCAA Basketball game vs. the Stanford Cardinals at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (Photo by Kevin Cody | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ethan Pearce, Assistant Sports Editor

 

The University of Utah men’s basketball team grabbed another quality win on Thursday evening as they beat the Arizona Wildcats in Salt Lake City, 73-58. It was a great win for the team, which has been through a lot of trials this season. Arizona is a good team with a 13-5 record, so this is a quality win for Utah, especially in the fashion that they did it. They are now on a two-game winning streak after beating Colorado last week.

Game Flow

The first half was a back-and-forth contest — neither team led by more than five points at any moment. Utah was able to close the half with some good defense and Alfonso Plummer was just starting to heat up. They took a five-point lead into halftime, 32-27, and never looked back.

The second half rolled around, and Utah took control of the game. It was great to see, especially considering that the Utes have had many poor starts out of the halftime locker room throughout this season. This trend was not the case here — the Utes’ five-point lead quickly ballooned to double digits, and the Utes kept it there until the final buzzer, eventually winning by 15. In perhaps their most complete performance of the season, five Utes scored in double figures, led by Timmy Allen with 18 points and nine rebounds. Pelle Larsson chipped in 14 points to go along with four assists and four steals. Arizona was limited to just 2-9 from the three-point line on the night, had no fast breakpoints and the bench only chipped in 10, while Utah’s bench scored 24. Critically, both teams had 32 rebounds and Utah only committed 11 turnovers, which were both points of emphasis for Larry Krystkowiak because the team had struggled in those areas throughout the season. Utah kept those numbers relatively even in the last game against Colorado, so they may have found their recipe for success. Limiting turnovers and grabbing rebounds gives Utah a much higher chance of victory.

Takeaways

Rylan Jones is still deep in his sophomore slump, and he’s dealing with it by not shooting the ball. Over his past three games combined, he’s only attempted six field goals, hitting two of them for six points. It’s clear when watching him that he’s looking to pass much more often, and until he gets his confidence back, this trend may continue. He’s also had a fouling issue recently — committing eight over the last three games. Despite this fact, he’s impacting the game in other ways, such as dishing out six assists over this time frame and getting teammates involved. Jones is a key part of this team, and he can help Utah win games. They’ll need him to be more involved moving forward if they want to reach their ceiling. 

“He’s ultra-competitive,” Krystkowiak said. “There are so many good point guards in our conference… It’s a talented league, and Rylan, at the point of attack, both he and Pelle did a really good job competitively and scrapped, and were physical, and fought… Just tried to make things difficult for guys on a consistent basis. Over the 40 minutes, I thought we were really consistent with that.”

“It hasn’t really been the sting of one loss that’s hung with us. It’s been knowing that we can play better basketball,” Krystkowiak said.

The Utes did play better basketball on Thursday, and it was possibly the best basketball they’ve played all year. This game was a glimpse of what this team can be, and if they can get there on a consistent level, there may still be hope for where this season can go.

Up Next

The Utes’ scheduled game on Sunday against Arizona State was postponed due to contact tracing within the Sun Devils, so the Utes now look ahead to a trip to Berkeley for a rematch with Cal. The earlier loss to the Golden Bears was a rough one for Utah, and they’ll surely be motivated to right the previous wrongs in order to get a win next Thursday. A week off is a welcome sight for a team that is all of a sudden rolling, which will give them more time to rest and prepare for their next opponent.

 

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