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Utah basketball game guide: Runnin' Utes need to rebound at home against improved Washington State

First Published      Last Updated Feb 09 2017 11:09 am


Let’s just get into it:

Time, Place and [radio waves in] Space • We’ve got a 7 p.m. tip-off at the Huntsman Center on Thursday night, with the game on Pac-12 Networks and ESPN 700 AM. The Utes are running a "Spread Love" promotion for a local women’s shelter by collecting donations: Travel-sized toothbrushes, toothpase, mouthwash, floss and feminine products are being accepted.

The Line • As of Thursday morning, Utah is favored by 15 points according to Vegas Insider. The Utes are 11-9-1 against the spread this year, and have failed to cover in three of their last four games.

Pregame Quotable • A quote Larry Krystkowiak had on Devon Daniels, but is probably applicable to others on the team: "You gotta keep bringing it. Devon would probably be the first to admit that he hasn’t had the best practices lately. It’s not easy at this level. It doesn’t just keep happening on its own."



Last time out • Pure demolition. Utah owned the Cougars from start to finish, beating them 88-47 in their own building while shooting 58 percent from the field. Kyle Kuzma had a double-double, Lorenzo Bonam had a hot start, and the Cougars only shot 33 percent while being outrebounded by 19. Recall: This was a game when Utah didn’t have David Collette. The bench responded big-time by scoring 35 points.

Telling Stat • A stat site I like a lot is Hoop-Math.com, which measures some interesting things. There’s this sense that Utah plays well when it plays fast offensively. HM confirms this, ranking the Utes as the No. 22 team in effective field goal percentage (62.7 percent) when they shoot in 10 seconds or less compared to a 55.0 eFG percentage on non-transition shots. And yet, Utah doesn’t take a lot of shots in transition relative to other teams. Only 22.5 percent of shots are taken in transition, No. 123 in the country.

Cougars Roster Overview • One thing hasn’t really changed: Josh Hawkinson is still the most reliable player on this team. The 6-foot-10 senior is a double-double away from setting Washington State’s career mark, and he’s averaging 16 and 10 this season (had 19 and 13 in the last game against Utah). Beware, because he can get to the free throw line. One thing that looks different: Ike Iroegbu is playing out of his mind. The senior guard has scored 20 or more points in four of his last five games while averaging nearly six assists per game in that stretch, as if the loss to the Utes flicked the "on" switch. His best asset just might be his speed, but he can put up points in bunches. Malachi Flynn (10.9 ppg) and Charles Callison (8.8 ppg) offer some ability to stretch the floor, both shooting over 40 percent from 3-point range, while Conor Clifford is another big body to pair with Hawkinson — although he struggled in the last outing against Utah’s zone. Offensively, this team has improved and isn’t turning over the ball a lot (1.18 assist-to-turnover ratio). They’re also the Pac-12 team with the least fouls and the best free throw percentage. But they have severe shortcomings in other areas, particularly on defense where they’ve allowed opponents to score 79 or more points in six straight games.

Behind Enemy Lines • The Spokesman-Review writes that Ernie Kent will look to go deeper into his bench.

Something's Gotta Give • It’s going to be a good test for Utah’s zone, which faltered almost completely at Stanford. Last time out, Larry Krystkowiak suggested that Wazzu was a different team when it faced zone versus man, and it allowed Utah to hold them to only 47 points, the second-lowest point total of the year. But that might’ve been the high point for the zone this season. Utah has to tighten its execution if it wants to hold Washington State in check for the seventh straight win in the series.

Wazzu's Edge • One of Larry Krystkowiak’s constant refrain’s last week was "Get back!" The transition defense has not been what it has needed to be, and the Utes have allowed just over 24 percent of possessions to result in transition shots (10 seconds or less) according to Hoop-Math.com. Iroegbu’s hot streak is coinciding with Utah’s unwillingness to guard in transition and get back on defense. It can be turned around, but it may require a few Iroegbu dunks before Utah takes his threat seriously.

Utah's Edge • This team got a 45-26 rebounding edge without David Collette on the floor. Afterward, Larry Krystkowiak said it would’ve been "a shame" if they hadn’t gotten a rebounding advantage. That’s how low the expectations are for Wazzu’s rebounding ability. They are No. 307 in rebounding margin (minus-4.1) while Utah is No. 9 nationally (plus-8.1) and leads the Pac-12 in the same category.

Injury Watch • David Collette missed the last meeting between these teams, but should be able to go. Krystkowiak offered the dubious reassurance that the elbow Collette took to the face at Stanford didn’t affect his head in the way that an earlier concussion did because "his eyeball took the brunt of it."

Watch Out For • The Utes seem to have hit a wall in the backcourt. Devon Daniels made only one basket last week. Lorenzo Bonam was again hot and cold. JoJo Zamora struggled and sat a lot of minutes on the bench. Utah is struggling to get the backcourt production that defined its hot start to Pac-12 play. Those players need to bring intensity and heads-up decision making to compliment Collette and Kuzma offensively in the front court.

kgoon@sltrib.com
Twitter: @kylegoon

 

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