Isaiah Stewart and the University of Washington will pay a visit to the Huntsman Center on Thursday evening to take on the University of Utah.
Make sure you’re paying attention, because this is likely to be the 6-foot-9, five-star freshman forward’s only trip to Salt Lake City as a collegian.
Stewart, the Naismith National Player of the Year and a McDonald’s All-American in 2019, is a projected top-20 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, according to ESPN NBA Draft expert Jonathan Givony.
“I know he’s a stud, he’s certainly one of the best bigs in our conference,” Utes head coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “I was watching the Oregon game on TV a little bit Saturday afternoon, and we saw Oregon in our building. They’re not slight in stature, and he made a few of those guys look small.
“He’s an absolute beast and we’ve got to have a few different plans to fight and scrap, and do our best to keep the ball out of there. He’s an elite shot blocker as well on the defensive end.”
As Krystkowiak all but said, Stewart has been as advertised since arriving in Seattle. Between Stewart and another elite 6-foot-9, five-star McDonald’s All-American, Jaden McDaniels, this will be one of the more challenging frontcourt matchups Utah has seen. It’s no secret the Utes have had trouble on that end of the floor lately.
On Jan. 12 at Colorado, Buffaloes forwards Evan Battey and Tyler Bey both had double-doubles in a 39-point win, combining for 38 points and 22 rebounds. Four nights later at Arizona, Wildcats freshman Zeke Nnaji, another projected first-round pick this spring, had 24 points on 9-for-12 shooting, to go along with eight rebounds.
Aside from the offense, this Washington team has shown it can be an elite defensive unit. It is giving up just 62.5 points per game, good for third in the Pac-12 and 42nd nationally. The Huskies are fourth nationally in blocked shots per game (6.7) and ninth in field-goal percentage defense (37.1 percent).
“I’m putting some onus on individual guys to step up,” Krystkowiak said. “Let’s make some plays and we’ll sort out which five need to be out there and what maybe makes the most sense at that time.”
WASHINGTON at UTAH
At Huntsman Center
Tipoff: Thursday, 6 p.m.
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Radio: ESPN 700AM
Series history: Utah leads, 15-11
Last meeting: Washington, 62-45 (2019)
About the Huskies: Washington, among the preseason favorites in the Pac-12, has lost three of four, including a 64-61 home decision to then-No. 8 Oregon on Saturday. The Huskies led that game by 16 points with 13:50 to play … Washington’s recent slide coincides with sophomore point guard Quade Green beng ruled academically ineligible on Jan. 9. The Kentucky transfer was averaging 11.6 points and 5.3 assists over 15 games … Including Green, head coach Mike Hopkins has four players averaging double figures, led by Isaiah Stewart’s 18.3 points per game … Stewart, the prohibitive favorite for Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, is coming off 25 points and 19 rebounds against Oregon, his ninth double-double of the season.
About the Utes: Utah is coming off an 83-64 loss at Arizona State on Saturday night for its fourth straight loss and fifth in its last six games … Ute coach Larry Krystkowiak was reprimanded by the Pac-12 on Tuesday for negative comments he made about officiating Saturday night at Arizona State. Krystkowiak was ejected with 1:23 to play for arguing a questionable technical foul on Matt Van Komen … The Utes, in sole possession of last place in the Pac-12, will play their first home game since Jan. 4, a 69-64 loss to then-No. 4 Oregon … Timmy Allen continues to lead the Pac-12 in scoring at 19.8 points per game. The sophomore guard had 18 points against the Sun Devils, but shot just 6-for-18 on the night … Utah outpaces Washington in several key categories, including rebounding margin, where the Utes are plus-3.4 for the season. Washington, despite the presence of Stewart, is only plus-1.1 on the year.