When Arizona State basketball travels to Salt Lake City, Utah, on Wednesday night for a game with the University of Utah, it will face a Runnin’ Utes team that has put up solid defensive performances of late, limiting opponents to the lowest shooting percentage in the Pac-12.
Unfortunately for Utah fans, the offensive end of the floor has been a different story.
If nothing else, progress was made in Utah’s 73-64 loss to Oregon on Saturday.
Less than a year after a devastating 46-point defeat at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, the Utes gained some respect from the 19th-ranked Ducks. They led at halftime and fought hard throughout the contest.
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak praised his players’ effort on the road in the Pacific Northwest. “I was really proud of the way our guys scrapped,” he said. “We made some strides forward even though we lost the basketball game.”
Utah jumped out to a surprising 30-22 halftime lead over Oregon thanks to 14 points from freshman forward Jordan Loveridge and 10 from senior center Jason Washburn. The Utes outscored the Ducks 15-2 in points off turnovers, enabling them to overcome a 22-6 rebounding deficit.
In addition to forcing 11 miscues, the Runnin’ Ute defense held Oregon to 30.8 percent shooting in the first period and just a pair of free throws over the final 5:13 of the half.
Following the break, Oregon clawed back into the game with a 24-6 edge in second-chance points. They also benefited from an 11-0 run midway through the second half. The Ducks ended the contest with a 41-19 rebounding advantage. Senior forward Arsalan Kazemi had a game-high 14.
“As a big man, it’s all on me,” said Washburn, who led the Utes with 20 points and seven rebounds. “We didn’t box out well enough and we didn’t go and get rebounds nearly enough. It definitely hurt us tonight.”
He added, “They got the momentum in their favor and took off with it. It’s hard to keep up with a good team in their own house when they have that type of momentum.”
As a result of the loss at Oregon, Utah falls to 10-13, 2-9 in the Pac-12. Last season, the Utes were able to manage three conference wins. With a difficult schedule ahead, the current Utah hoops squad seems unlikely to better that feat.