The Runnin Utes open the season with a lopsided victory over an overmatched Willamette squad
Game Preview- Washington State at Utah
Thursday's game marks Utah's first-ever conference home game as a member of the Pac-12 Conference. The game will be Utah's firstever Blackout for men's basketball. All fans are encouraged to come in black to match the black uniforms their Utes will wear.
Utah leads the all-time series against Washington State, 13-2, including a 10-1 record at home. The Utes won the last meeting against the Cougars, 69- 55, in Salt Lake City in 2006. Washington State's last win against Utah was a 69-42 neutral-site victory in 2005, snapping a run of 11 consecutive wins in the series by the Utes.
Utah's leading scorer is Josh "Jiggy" Watkins, at 15.1 points per game, which ranks fifth in the Pac-12 (including all games). He also tops the Utes in assists with 5.1 helpers per contest which is second-best in the Pac-12. Jason Washburn is Utah's top rebounder at 7.1 boards per game and second-leading scorer with 11.2 points per contest.
Washington State split its first two conference games, falling at home to Oregon, 92-75, then defeating Oregon State, 81-76, in Pullman.
--Utah's 33 points against Colorado represented only the second time since 1976 the Utes were held to fewer than 40 points in a game.
--The Utes shot 12-for-53 from the field, a ghastly 22.6 percent, against Colorado. They wound up with as many turnovers (12) as baskets.
--The 40-point loss marked the fourth time this season Utah had been beaten by 30 or more points. Eight of the Utes' losses have been by 20 or more points.
BY THE NUMBERS:
8.7 -- Utah's 3-point field-goal percentage in the loss to Colorado. The Utes converted just 2 of 23 attempts.
QUOTE TO NOTE:
"Regardless of the score, we wanted to make a statement, like we're not going to lay down for anyone, and I think that's kind of what we did a little bit. It's not the way we wanted to start off, but we have to regroup." -- Utah C Jason Washburn after the 44-point loss at Colorado.
There may not be many Pac-12 games this season where the Utes figure to have any real shot to win, but this could be one of them. Maybe. WSU won its final six non-conference games, but did so against a suspect collection of opponents. Utah is improving, but has miles to go. If the Utes have any edge, it's history: They lead the all-time series 13-2 and were unbeaten in 11 straight matchups from 1952 through 2000.
The future cannot get here fast enough for first-year coach Larry Krystkowiak. Given the team's current arc, it won't be surprising if there are roster changes before the end of this season. And there could be a massive overhaul in the offseason. Krystkowiak already has signed five newcomers for next season, and these are his players, ready to embrace his agenda. Pity any returning player who doesn't jump onboard quickly and with enthusiasm.
--G Josh Watkins, the Utes' top scorer all season, totaled just four points in the loss to Colorado, shooting 1-for-12 from the field and missing all five of his 3-point tries. That capped a four-game stretch in which Watkins was 12-for-47 from the field (25.5 percent) from the field.
--C Jason Washburn scored 10 points against Colorado, the Utes' only player to reach double figures. Washburn was averaging 13.3 points and 7.8 rebounds over four games through the end of 2011.
--G Kareem Storey was mired in the kind of rut that freshmen sometimes face. He was scoreless on combined 0-for-8 shooting in 54 minutes on the floor over the past three games entering the new year.
--After allowing Oregon to shoot better than 69 percent from the field, WSU switched up and opened in a zone defense against Oregon State. Coach Ken Bone, who would prefer playing man, said of the zone, "It wasn't great, but it was fairly effective." The Beavers shot 45 percent.
--The Cougars played both Oregon games in Spokane, Wash., because classes are out and there is not much potential for big crowds in Pullman. WSU hasn't played on its campus since beating Western Oregon on Dec. 18, and won't return to Friel Court until Jan. 19 against Stanford.
BY THE NUMBERS:
76.1 -- Junior F Charlie Enquist's field-goal percentage through 14 games.
QUOTE TO NOTE:
"They came out and smacked us." -- Washington State PG Reggie Moore on Oregon's 92-75 win over the Cougars.
The Cougars have only beaten Utah twice in 15 meetings, and once went 11 games over 48 seasons without a win. But these are different days for the rebuilding Utes. WSU will try to contain Utah senior G Josh Watkins, the team's top scorer, and should be able to outscore a team that managed just 42 points in a loss to in-state rival BYU.
It appears, to borrow an old phrase, that the future is now for freshman G DaVonte Lacy. He continued to show he belongs in WSU's starting lineup after scoring 19 points in 24 foul-plagued minutes against Oregon, then contributing 18 points to the win over Oregon State. Those performances gave Lacy a 17.3 scoring average over his final three games of 2011, during which he also made 11 of 16 shots from behind the 3-point line.
--Junior PG Reggie Moore, the Pac-12 leader in assists, had a season-high nine to go with eight points in the Cougars' win over Oregon State. He scored 14 points in the loss to Oregon.
--Junior G Faisel Aden averaged 12 points in his first two games back from a concussion, but struggled in the past two games entering the new year. He was 2 for 11 without a 3-point basket -- his specialty -- in games vs. Oregon and OSU.
--Junior F Brock Motum averaged 19 points in games against the Oregon schools and has scored in double digits in every game this season, except the 24-point win over Division II Western Oregon in which he played just 22 minutes.
Washington State is a middle of the road Pac 12 team. Utah is not. While the Utes may come out a bit fired up with the blackout and this being their first Pac 12 home game, the Utah talent pales in comparison to what the Cougars are throwing out there. If Utah stays within 15, consider it a moral victory.
Washington State 81 Utah 55
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