Utah guard Alfonso Plummer has picked up where he left off last year, and then some
Having received balanced scoring through its first four games, Utah hosts winless Idaho Friday night in another tuneup game before jumping back into Pac-12 play next week
A lot of uncertainty still surrounds the University of Utah men’s basketball team through four games this season, but one positive development appears clear.
Senior guard Alfonso Plummer has picked up where he left off last year. Actually, the native of Fajardo, Puerto Rico, has gone beyond that, adding improved defensive play and better shot selection to his lethal jump shot.
Fons, as his teammates call him, joined the program in 2019 after playing two years at Arizona Western College. He leads the Utes (3-1) in scoring with a 16.3 average heading into Friday’s nonconference matchup with Idaho (0-4) at the Huntsman Center.
Tipoff is at 7 p.m. and the game will be televised by the Pac-12 Network; For the third-straight Utes home game, no spectators will be allowed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“I am playing with confidence. Last year I was kind of struggling with some things. This year the coaches have given me the green light (to shoot) and so I feel like I have been playing really good,” Plummer said in a Zoom meeting with reporters Thursday afternoon.
He scored a team-high 19 points in Utah’s 82-64 loss at BYU last Saturday, the second time the 6-foot-1 guard has led Utah in scoring. He had a game-high 21 in the season- and Pac-12-opening 76-62 win over Washington on Dec. 3.
“There is always a lot of strength and validity in having multiple guys who can score in double figures, having some depth and some weapons. Teams at this level take your top options away and you need to have a supporting staff. It is nice to know that we don’t have to saddle somebody up specifically and count on them to score loads of points.” — Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak
Plummer announced his arrival as a big-time scorer and shooter in the Pac-12 tournament last March in Las Vegas, making a school-record 11 3-pointers and scoring a career-high 35 points in a 71-69 loss to Oregon State. The 11 triples tied a tournament record set by Washington State’s Klay Thompson.
Plummer had scored 23 and 21 points in the Utes’ final two regular season games, taking advantage of increased playing time after late-season injuries sidelined fellow guards Rylan Jones and Both Gach, so the burst at the T-Mobile Arena didn’t come entirely out of the blue.
But it was spectacular.
Plummer went home to Puerto Rico after the tournament loss, then returned to Salt Lake City this past fall and has been a bright spot for the Utes, who are coming off a 75-67 win over Utah Valley on Tuesday.
Junior Timmy Allen led the Utes in scoring in that victory, netting 19 points. Expected to be the Utes’ leading scorer after leading them in that category last year, Allen is No. 2 behind Plummer with a 13.3 average.
Coach Larry Krystkowiak likes the balance, and having more than one go-to guy down the stretch, after Allen bore most of that load last year. Freshman Pelle Larsson (7.0 ppg.) led Utah in scoring with 14 points in the 75-59 win over Idaho State.
“There is always a lot of strength and validity in having multiple guys who can score in double figures, having some depth and some weapons. Teams at this level take your top options away and you need to have a supporting staff,” Krystkowiak said. “It is nice to know that we don’t have to saddle somebody up specifically and count on them to score loads of points.”
Sophomore Branden Carlson (10.0) is also averaging in double figures, while Jones (9.3) and Mikael Jantunen (8.3) are close.
“It will be nice to have three, four, five guys that are averaging in double figures,” Krystkowiak said. “At this point, it seems like we might be heading a little bit in that way.”
Allen said the Utes need to “find some rhythm” against Idaho “before we go into the really big games” next week against Arizona State and the following weekend against UCLA and USC.
“We have to commit to taking good shots,” he said.
Idaho is off to a rocky start under second-year coach Zac Claus. Several games have been canceled by COVID-19 issues, including a trip to No. 1 Gonzaga on Dec. 14, and the Vandals have lost twice to Sacramento State and to Washington State and Cal State Bakersfield. They’ve yet to play a home game.
DeAndre Robinson leads Idaho in scoring with an 11.5 average.
“Idaho is the best 0-4 team that I have ever seen in my lifetime,” Krystkowiak said in a virtual news conference Thursday.