clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

No. 9 Utes to face defensive-minded Oregon State team Thursday

CORVALIS, Ore. — On paper, anyway, it looks like another easy game for the ninth-ranked Utah basketball team, which is 20-4 overall and 10-2 in the Pac-12 with the 10 victories coming by an average of 22 points.

Thursday night (9 p.m. MST), the Utes will be facing an Oregon State team that is offensive challenged, to say the least. The Beavers rank 313th in the country in points per game (61.9) and have scored over 60 points in only one of their last seven games. They shoot just 42.8 percent from the field and 32.0 percent from 3-point range, ranking them 216th and 256th, in the country, respectively.

So what’s the big problem for the Utes?

Well, the Beavers happen to be one of the top defensive teams around, which is why they are undefeated at home this year at 14-0 and the surprise team in the Pac-12 with a 7-6 record after being picked to finish last. Oh and they also own one of the few victories against No. 7-ranked Arizona — a 58-56 win at home in early January.

No wonder Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak is more than a little worried as he takes his team into Gill Coliseum Thursday night.

“They’re playing hard, playing defense, playing together, doing a bunch of things that will win you basketball games,’’ said Krystkowiak. “They’re definitely the surprise team in our conference. They have yet to lose at home, which is really impressive. We’ve got our hands full and it should be a heck of a crowd.’’

The Beavers are coached by Wayne Tinkle, a former teammate of Krystkowiak’s at Montana and who was also his assistant at Montana, where he coached from 2004-06. Tinkle has used a similar formula as Krystkowiak to find success by emphasizing defense first.

OSU ranks sixth nationally in field goal percentage defense, holding opponents to just 37.2 percent (the Utes are just behind the Beavers at No. 10 in the country — 37.5 percent). The Beavers also rank 12th in the country in points allowed at 57.1 ppg.

But while the Beavers don’t shoot very well, the Utes do, ranking fifth in the nation in field goal percentage at 49.7 percent and ninth in 3-point percentage at 40.8 percent and that could be the difference in Thursday's game.

“I like where we are offensively,’’ said Krystkowiak. “Numbers-wise we’re one of the more efficient teams in the conference and in the country. When your points per possession are in the top 10 in the country and we’re not turning it over excessively, I should be pretty pleased with the offense.’’

Oregon State is led by Gary Payton II, who played two years for Salt Lake Community College before going to the same school where his father starred a couple of decades ago.

Payton is tops on his team in scoring at 13.1 ppg and rebounding (7.2 rpg), despite standing just 6-foot-3. He shoots 49.6 percent from the field and is second on the team in assists at 3.0 per game.

“Payton’s been a great addition for them and the other guys that are there have really embraced what (Tinkle) has been preaching,’’ said Krystkowiak.

“The other guys” are an eclectic group that includes Malcolm Duvivier, a 6-2 guard from Canada, Daniel Gomis, a 6-10 forward from Senegal, Olaf Schaftenaar, a 6-10 forward from The Netherlands and Langston Morris-Walker, a 6-5 guard from California. Four of the five starters average more than 30 minutes per game.

The Beavers will be thin off the bench with just one player, 6-7 forward Jamal Reid, who averages more than 10 minutes per game. Sixth man Victor Robbins, the team’s second-leading scorer (10.3 ppg), will not play against Utah. He was suspended 10 games for violating athletic department policy in January, and was cited for a DUI earlier this month, which extended his suspension beyond this weekend’s games.

The Utes are expected to start their usual lineup of Delon Wright and Brandon Taylor at the guardline, Jordan Loveridge and Chris Reyes at forwards and Jakob Poeltl at center with Dakarai Tucker, Dallin Bachynski and Brekkott Champman all expected to see significant time off the bench.

After Thursday’s game, the Utes will have two days to practice before their next game in Eugene against Oregon, Sunday at 1 p.m. MST.

GAME NOTES: Average home attendance this year at Gill Coliseum has been 5,202. … The highest attendance was just short of a sellout in the Beavers’ last game at 9,114 in a 64-50 win over Washington. … The Beavers’ flight out of Los Angeles after last week’s USC game was delayed by nearly an hour because a scorpion stung a woman sitting two rows in front of coach Tinkle. The incident was enough to get Tinkle an interview on "Good Morning America" earlier this week. … The Utes and Beavers won’t play in Salt Lake this year, but could meet in the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas next month.