Utah basketball: Utes need Loveridge at best vs. BYU
If Utah wants to beat BYU on Saturday night, a number of things will have to go right, from limiting Tyler Haws to rebounding to making open shots.
Most importantly, though, may be getting Jordan Loveridge to kick his recent habit of slow starts.
The sophomore forward almost has been invisible in the first half of three of his last four games, only to come on strong in the second 20 minutes. It's a trend that has many shaking their heads, including Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak.
A Monday conversation between Krystkowiak and his star led to the West Jordan native scoring a career-high 27 points in Tuesday's win over Idaho State. It was a game where Loveridge found himself in overdrive for a full 40 minutes.
"People have to realize that he's just nine games into his sophomore season, so there will be ups and downs," Krystkowiak said. "A lot of it is up to him to figure out some things. But it's a matter of him being aggressive."
That makes Loveridge one of the key components in Utah's quest to break a losing streak to the Cougars and to give the rivalry a bit of balance. At his best, Loveridge is a matchup issue for most opponents too big for traditional small forwards and too quick for most power forwards.
Those attributes will make it difficult for BYU to guard him. He scored a team-high 14 points in last year's narrow loss to the Cougars.
"I just have to be aggressive," Loveridge said. "I try to let things come, but I know I can't be passive at the same time."
Utah has developed a nice three-man rotation at center. Renan Lenz usually starts, while Jeremy Olsen and Dallin Bachynski come off the bench. Bachynski, a 7-foot junior, has provided defense and been a finisher in the paint.
"We've been pleased with his progress," Krystkowiak said. "He's played well. He's brought energy and he's given us something we haven't had."
Utah is beefing up next year's non-conference schedule significantly. The Utes will face the Kansas Jayhawks in Kansas City next December. The matchup against Bill Self's team will be played at the Sprint Center.
The deal is for the one neutral-floor game. There will be no return match in Salt Lake City.
The Utes also have verbally committed to play in the 2015 Puerto Rico tipoff, one of the premier non-conference tournaments. The field in Puerto Rico this season included Michigan, Georgetown, Virginia Commonwealth, Florida State and Kansas State.
Finally, officials from Utah and BYU both say that the series between the rivals will likely continue beyond next season. This after earlier word that the two schools were struggling to come to a long-term arrangement to maintain the home-and-home series.
Junior center Marko Kovacevic soon will have the splint removed from his wrist, which is healing from a fracture. He's dressed for three games but hasn't received any playing time yet,
The lower bowl of the Huntsman Center is full for Saturday's game, Utah officials said. The upper bowl has limited availability, meaning the game should at least come close to a sellout.
Utah vs. BYU
P Saturday, 8 p.m.
At the Huntsman Center
TV • Pac-12 Networks