He even took a charge and drew an offensive foul.
Of all the things Jordan Loveridge accomplished Saturday during Utah’s 74-69 victory over No. 25 UCLA at the Huntsman Center, a lone defensive play in the first half stood out the most for his coach, Larry Krystkowiak.
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Truthfully, Loveridge did more in the win. Much more. In large stretches, he was the best player on the court for the Utes. Scoring 17 points, grabbing nine rebounds and handing out four assists attest to that. But doing the little things — such as handling the ball against the press and taking a charge — made him so much more valuable.
"He was very good out there for us," Krystkowiak said. "I think that charge was the first one he’s drawn in the two years that he’s been here. We’ve been challenging him to do more defensively, and I think he met that challenge against UCLA."
The sophomore forward — playing with the burden of being the face of the program for the first time — had been in a mini-slump. But he was himself against the Bruins, proving himself a matchup problem at power forward and showing off the versatility of his game.
He’d been inefficient shooting the ball over the past few games, but Saturday he found his stroke. He went 6-for-11 from the field. He went 2-for-4 from 3-point range and he made all three of his free throws. He played 39 minutes.
"I just wanted to go with the flow and not try to force anything," Loveridge said. "I was just trying to help my team and contribute out there."
The question now lies in whether Utah can bottle the magic and take it on the road. The numbers are ugly this season. The Utes are 0-3 away from the Huntsman Center. They scored 57 and 46 points, respectively, against Washington and Washington State. WSU’s only Pac-12 victory comes at Utah’s expense.
Following the win over the Bruins, the talk with Utah centered around taking lessons and applying them to the road. Heading to Arizona State on Thursday and No. 1 Arizona next Sunday, the Utes know they have a lot to prove. The road in the Pac-12 has not been kind for Krystkowiak’s team. Utah will try for another breakthrough this week.
"If we’re going to be successful and reach some of the goals we want to reach, we have to get better on the road," Krystkowiak said. "It’s always nice to learn a lesson and not have to lose a game. We have to keep plugging right along and keep doing what we’re doing. I told the guys to enjoy the win, but we have to start thinking about Arizona State."
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