Utah basketball: Jeremy Olsen emerges as threat after earning start
This basketball season hasn't gone as well as Jeremy Olsen would have liked, outside of recently getting engaged to be married.
Utah's sophomore center has struggled defensively. He hasn't yet found a groove on offense, and he's been one of the most turnover-prone players on Larry Krystkowiak's team.
That may have changed Saturday. Olsen, who made his first career start for the Utes, responded with a career effort, scoring a personal-best 14 points and grabbing five rebounds in a win over Oregon State.
Olsen offered a prolonged glimpse into what coaches have hoped he would be. He scored with his back to the basket and was a finisher inside when Delon Wright would drive the lane then pass. He made mid-range jumpers and provided a scoring threat at center that hasn't been there in the past month.
"I think Jeremy would be the first to tell you that this season hasn't gone as planned," Krystkowiak said. "He started against Oregon State because they are one of the biggest teams in the league. I wanted to see if Jeremy could come out and be productive offensively because he's very effective in the low post with his type of game."
When Krystkowiak made the decision to go away from Renan Lenz and get a little bigger at center, Dallin Bachynski seemed the logical choice because of his recent play. But Krystkowiak likes Bachynski coming off the bench and wanted that to continue.
Olsen appears the most offensively skilled big man on Utah's roster. But he's also the most defensively challenged, which has limited his playing time this season. Still, he offers the ability to score in the post, and that could open opportunities for others on the perimeter.
"He certainly made some big plays and some big shots for us," Utes guard Brandon Taylor said.
The travel grind
The Washington trip is the most grueling of the season because there is so much time between games. Utah will face the Huskies on Wednesday then wait until Sunday to play at Washington State.
That has forced Krystkowiak to get creative with the schedule. His team will fly commercially to Seattle on Tuesday. But because classes return to session this week, the Utes will return to Utah on Thursday to attend classes before taking a charter flight to Pullman for Sunday's game.
The Utes stay on the road for most trips.
"It will be important for us to go to school," Krystkowiak said. "That's a big part of the equation for us, and we take that very seriously."
Which one will work?
Utah is struggling to find a wing off the bench who commands consistent minutes. Junior forward Princeton Onwas has filled that role for most of the season, but he's fallen out of the rotation in the last two games.
Freshman forward Ahmad Fields played five minutes against Oregon but failed to score. Freshman guard Kenneth Ogbe took on the role against Oregon State, but he struggled with a few careless turnovers.
This week's games
Wednesday • Utah at Washington, 9 p.m.
Sunday • Utah at Washington State, 5 p.m.