SALT LAKE CITY — Ute guard Both Gach turned in a shining performance in Utah’s 69-64 loss to No. 4 Oregon, scoring a career-high 24 points to lead the team.
“I think he was super aggressive. He’s gaining more and more confidence as time goes on. Good pick-and-roll player, his ability to shoot the 3, he’s also doing a nice job of getting in the lane and finding some guys,” Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said.
“He’s doing a nice job of understanding when to get on the rim and when people collapse, to find guys with his length.” — Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, on Both Gach
Gach, a sophomore, has really come into his own and developed as one of Utah’s main scoring options. As a true freshman last season, Gach averaged 7.7 points per game and started 14 games, but in his sophomore season, Gach looks like he has made the necessary leap to be a reliable scoring threat.
Gach asserted himself in the first game of the season against Nevada, tying his career high of 22 points in the season-opening win. The sophomore also impressed in wins against Minnesota (19 points), Kentucky (Gach scored 13 points in the first half as Utah opened strong against the Wildcats) and Oregon State (17 points).
Against Oregon, Gach set his season highs in points (24), minutes (38), field goals made (nine) and 3-point field goals made (four). He finished the night 9-for-20 from the field and 4-for-12 from 3-point range with two assists, one rebound and one steal. Though he had just two assists, Gach was setting up players for good looks — some of which didn’t go down.
“Besides assists, which we didn’t have enough of, our stat department will look at potential assists — a really good pass to guys that didn’t go in. I give him credit for that, even though it doesn’t show up on the scoreboard,” Krystkowiak said. “He’s doing a nice job of understanding when to get on the rim and when people collapse, to find guys with his length.”
Gach has made a point of trying to get to the rim more, and it showed on Saturday.
“I was just trying to be aggressive from the start. Coach put me in a good position to make plays for my teammates and for myself, so I took advantage of that and was just trying to be aggressive,” Gach said. He added that being aggressive, getting to the rim and not settling was one of the biggest keys for him.
From the start of the game, Gach showed his ability to get to the basket. His first made field goal of the game was a layup. All but one of his nine made field goals was either a 3-pointer or a layup or dunk.
“When he makes up his mind to get downhill and get on the rim with that 6-6 body, especially when he includes that passing ability, I think he’s a really hard guard,” Krystkowiak said. “He’s right in the middle of that learning curve. In order to really start, ‘I got this,’ you’ve got to feel it a few times. Over the course of the last couple of weeks, I think he feels that.”
Guard Rylan Jones agreed with that assessment.
“When he gets downhill and going, he’s probably the fastest guy in the league that can get from half court to the basket like we’ve seen in the last two games when he had those two dunks,” Jones added. “He was making his 3s and he was just playing aggressive. We used him in pick-and-roll because he was causing problems for them and he made a lot of good plays.”
Gach was instrumental in Utah’s 16-8 run to take a 60-59 lead with 6:20 left in the game. Over that five-minute run, Gach scored seven points to get the Utes right back in it, including the go-ahead layup.
Gach will look to keep his good play going when Utah takes on Colorado next Sunday.
“We’ve got to keep being better as a team. We’ve got a long week off before we play Colorado and hopefully we’re locked in the whole week and just try to get better,” Gach said.