Utah basketball: Utes look to get defensive in OSU rematch
It was the height of frustration for the Utah Utes.
Through the course of an entire season, the Utes forged a reputation as one of the better defensive teams in the Pac-12. Yet last month at Oregon State, that defense took a vacation as Roberto Nelson rained in 3-pointers and Joe Burton sliced up Utah inside with his passing and hook shot. OSU demolished the Utes by 18 points.
However, Thursday night's rematch with Oregon State at the Huntsman Center isn't about revenge for Utah. At least that's what Jason Washburn says. It's about regaining an identity that got lost that night in Corvallis. Losing is one thing. Getting hammered at something you normally do well and surrendering 82 points in the process? That's quite another.
"They scored way too many points on us," Washburn said. "It was something that we talked about. That wasn't us defensively, and we knew it. We have to do a lot better this time around."
Washburn, the 6-foot-11 center, still has two games remaining in his college basketball career. But he's reaching a milestone regardless. His first basket against the Beavers will give him 1,000 points for his career, quite the accomplishment considering how far he's come on and off the court.
But it will be Washburn's ability to defend the paint that will be key against OSU. Time and again in the first game between the two teams, Burton would get position down low and score. Oregon State owned the offensive rebounding. Nelson scored 26 points, many of them coming during a key second-half run.
"We saw what they were capable of," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "They are capable of hurting you in many ways. They have the ability to score inside and out. They can put together good offensive possessions. It's our challenge to be effective against that."
This will be a different Utes team in a few ways. Freshman Jordan Loveridge is expected to spend at least part of his time at small forward, instead of his usual power forward slot, as the coaching staff wants to see if he can play more on the perimeter.
It's also not known whether freshman small forward Dakarai Tucker will play since he sprained his knee last week against California. Coaches originally feared that he had torn his ACL, but an MRI revealed no severe structural damage.
A win over Oregon State would put Utah in 10th place in the Pac-12. It would also likely ensure that the Utes won't finish last in the league. A fourth conference victory would also top last season's Pac-12 win total.
Oregon State at Utah
O At the Huntsman Center
Tipoff • Thursday, 7 p.m.
TV • ESPNU
Radio • 700 AM
Records • Utah 11-17, 3-13; Oregon State 13-16, 3-13
Last meeting • Oregon State 82, Utah 64 (Feb. 6)