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(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes guard Brandon Taylor (11) and Utah Utes guard Kenneth Ogbe (25) share a laugh after Taylor hit a three-point shot. The University of Utah defeated Oregon State 80-69 during their game Saturday, January 4, 2014 at the Huntsman Center.
Utah basketball: Kenneth Ogbe provides sparks off bench
Utah basketball » Ogbe scored a career high in win over UCLA.
First Published Jan 20 2014 10:49 am • Last Updated Mar 24 2014 11:34 pm

Kenneth Ogbe walked into the media room and froze.

Utah’s freshman looked at the throng of reporters itching to ask about his career night and hesitated. Sports information director Drew Wiseman gently nudged him toward his seat. Even when he settled in, his left hand shook nervously.

At a glance

Kenneth Ogbe

Year » Freshman

Height » 6 foot 6

Position » Guard

Noteworthy » Scored a career-high 12 points on Saturday against UCLA. ... Had scored just two points in his previous four games.

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The scene holds a hint of irony because the 6-foot-6 rookie guard from Germany was a game-changer in Utah’s win over the No. 25 Bruins. And he did it with steely nerves that belied his performance in the interview room.

Ogbe scored 12 points in 12 minutes off the bench. He made all four of his shots, including a pair of 3-pointers, and sank two free throws down the stretch.

"He’s a great example of a kid who stays with it," Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "The kid reminds me of Dakarai [Tucker] and Brandon [Taylor] from a year ago. It’s just a lot for a college freshman to handle. He’s much improved defensively and the entire locker room is off the charts happy for him because he hasn’t pouted."

Ogbe’s big day seems to have come out of nowhere. He averages three points a game and his previous career high was 10 against Evergreen State. He did come off the bench to score nine against Boise State on the road, but he hasn’t played much since then. He only scored two points in his last four games.

But those inside the program see he has a load of talent, potential and upside, all wrapped up in a 6-6 package. He scored 20 points during Utah’s intrasquad scrimmage in October, even driving the baseline and dunking on Princeton Onwas. He hasn’t been getting a lot of time because his defense has taken awhile to develop.

However, with his performance in recent practices and his length, Krystkowiak decided to give him a try against the Bruins, one of the bigger teams in the Pac-12.

"It feels great to make this kind of contribution," Ogbe said. "It felt great out there. My teammates have given me a lot of confidence. Every day they have told me to shoot the ball in practice, so it was good to get out there and be able to help the team."

In Krystkowiak’s seemingly never-ending quest to find shooting help off the bench, Ogbe may have proved himself capable. If so, that could lead to an expanded role for Ogbe. Krystkowiak has tried several guys in reserve who are capable of coming in and getting hot, but Ogbe so far has been the only one to provide that spark.

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