Utah basketball: Utes looking for perimeter firepower
Jordan Loveridge and Jason Washburn have turned Utah into a scoring-rich frontcourt that complements buckets with rebounding, shot-blocking and stingy defense.
But as road losses at Arizona and Arizona State make glaringly obvious, that's not enough. So as the Utes prepare for this week's home games against UCLA on Thursday and USC on Saturday, perimeter scoring has become the focus.
Put another way, the lack of perimeter scoring has become a big concern. Utah's starting backcourt of Glen Dean and Jarred DuBois has been unable to rise above the level of a footnote in terms of their ability to create offense when it counts.
DuBois leads the team with 13.2 points per game but has been mired in a shooting slump since the Utes took their trip to Texas in late November. Dean averages 7.8 points per game, but he's been passive most of the season when it comes to looking for his shot.
With Utah's points coming at a premium in conference play so far, figuring out a way to score more will be a big emphasis in practice this week. With two of the higher scoring teams in the league invading the Huntsman Center, now seems as good a time as any to address it.
"It's on us as coaches to find a way to free up the backcourt so they can get some more good looks at the basket," Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "Those guys are certainly capable and are certainly good players. So we need to put them in better position to make an impact offensively."
And it's more than Dean and DuBois. Starting small forward Aaron Dotson is scoring just 2.8 points per game. Cedric Martin contributes 4.5, although his value to Utah hinges on his reputation as the best defender on the team.
Dakari Tucker, Justin Seymour and Brandon Taylor all have had their moments. But they all are just freshmen. Loveridge has averaged 16 points and 8.5 rebounds over his last four games, while Washburn has put together what perhaps has been his best two-game stretch as a Ute.
But as those two flourish, teams will turn more and more of their attention to shutting down them. That's why balance in the next few weeks will be so important.
"Coach said at halftime of the Arizona game that we weren't screening hard on offense," Loveridge said. "Once we did that, things started to open up for us."
Krystkowiak says it's a misconception that Utah wants to play slow basketball. He also said that early offense and early looks may be a key to getting guys loose on the perimeter.
"We got caught too much with the shot clock winding down this weekend," Krystkowiak said. "I think if we pay more attention to what we do early in the play that we will have a better chance of our guys making more plays and getting into the flow."
UCLA at Utah
P Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
TV • Pac-12 Network