Utah basketball set to host Oregon State as Tres Tinkle, Timmy Allen take the spotlight in Pac-12 opener

(Young Kwak | AP File) In this March 9, 2019, file photo, Oregon State forward Tres Tinkle (3) shoots next to Washington State forward Davante Cooper during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Pullman, Wash.

It is unarguable that Timmy Allen is playing at an All-Pac-12 level for the University of Utah.

As the Utes ready to open Pac-12 play at the Huntsman Center on Thursday against Oregon State (6:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks), the junior wing leads the conference in scoring at 21.0 points per game, while grabbing 7.4 rebounds and handing out 2.7 assists per contest.

The Beavers feature their own star power in senior guard Tres Tinkle. The two-time All-Pac-12 selection is working on a criminally underrated college career, mostly because he plays in a remote outpost like Corvallis, but also because the Beavers haven’t challenged for an NCAA Tournament bid lately. Like Allen, Tinkle is filling up the stat sheet. His 20.4 points per game are accompanied by 7.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game.

So, with the Pac-12’s two leading scorers squaring off against each other to begin the 18-game league schedule, that’s the storyline right? Alpha vs. Alpha? Larry Krystkowiak would like a word.

“I don’t think so at all,” the Utah head coach told The Salt Lake Tribune by phone earlier this week. “Everyone’s slate is wiped clean now, all of that stuff from earlier this season is kind of a moot point now. One thing that Timmy is doing a great job of is distributing the ball. He’s become a bit more of a playmaker for us as he’s gotten more attention.

“I don’t think we need to put too much on his plate. He can be a component, he doesn’t have to do all the scoring.”

Maybe Allen doesn’t have to do all the scoring, but he will likely be asked to guard Tinkle at some point. Allen has grown into a capable defender, and Tinkle presents a stern test. Krystkowiak likes to reference the “head of the snake.” If you can eliminate the head, you give yourself a chance to win. In this case, Tinkle is clearly the head.

In four career games against Utah, Tinkle is averaging 15.3 points on 46.3 percent shooting from the floor and 46.7 percent from 3-point range in 34 minutes per contest. The Utes had success against Tinkle early in his career, but his numbers against them rose considerably after he went for 31 points on 10-for-15 shooting in an 81-72 win last season in Salt Lake City.

“I’m not surprised at his improvement over the years,” Krystkowiak said, who recruited Tinkle hard before he opted to play for his father, Wayne Tinkle, at Oregon State. “He’s a good basketball player, and more and more experience helps. He’s an excellent perimeter player, he has a great knack around the glass, and he’s just gotten bigger and stronger.

“He is one of the elite players in our conference.”

Utah (9-3) is coming off an 11-day break around the holidays between games, the longest such holiday stretch for the program under Krystkowiak. The Utes lost to 20th-ranked San Diego State to close non-conference play on Dec. 21, but has put together a better-than-anticipated resume to this point. The Utes’ NET of 62, buoyed by Quadrant 1 wins over Kentucky and BYU, ranks it No. 7 in the Pac-12 through Tuesday’s games.


At the Huntsman Center

Tipoff: Thursday, 6:30 p.m.

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Radio: ESPN 700AM

Records: Oregon State 10-2; Utah 9-3

Series history: Utah leads, 15-11

Last meeting: Oregon State, 81-72 (2019)

About the Beavers: At 10-2, Oregon State is off to its best start since 1984-85 season. That Ralph Miller-coached team wound up in the NCAA Tournament … The Beavers outlasted North Dakota on Sunday, 83-66, eight days after taking absorbing an ugly resume loss at Texas A&M … On Sunday, junior guard Ethan Thompson had a game-high 25 points and Tres Tinkle added 16. Tinkle, a senior and two-time All-Pac-12 selection, is 94 points shy of 2,000 for his career. Gary Payton is Oregon State’s all-time leading scorer at 2,172 points … The Beavers are 10-0 this season when shooting a better percentage than their opponent.

About the Utes: Utah is coming off a 12-day holiday layoff after losing to then-No. 20 San Diego State, 80-52, in Los Angeles … The Utes went an encouraging 9-3 against non-conference competition. That includes a combined 4-1 against Quadrant 1 and 2 teams, but also losses to Tulane and Coastal Carolina, both of which currently count as Quadrant 3 losses … Timmy Allen leads the Pac-12 in scoring at 21.0 point per game on 53.3 shooting from the floor. The sophomore guard, twice named Pac-12 Player of the Week this season, has seven games of at least 20 points, including five of his last six. The one outlier was a 19-point effort against Weber State on Dec. 14 … Beyond Thursday, the Utes will have a one-day prep ahead of No. 4 Oregon visiting the Huntsman Center on Saturday afternoon. The Ducks, reigning Pac-12 Tournament champions and Sweet 16 qualifiers a year ago, own the conference’s best resume at this juncture.

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