Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SEATTLE — Utah’s bid for a first conference road win since February of 2011 now faces a familiar face. Former Pleasant Grove High School star C.J. Wilcox headlines a Washington Huskies squad that the Utes face Saturday night at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
The 6-foot-5 junior is the Pac-12’s second-leading scorer (19.4 ppg) and top 3-point shooter (2.65 per game).
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said Wilcox, who is among the conference leaders in minutes played, is becoming a complete player.
“He’s kind of stepped into this role of being a big, big part of what we’re doing and he’s taken full advantage of it,” Romar explained, noting that Wilcox is doing more than just scoring. He’s impressed with his rebounding, defense and active play.
“The role has always been there for the taking,” Romar said. “It’s just this is the right opportunity now in his junior year."
It’s the latest in a series of progressions for Wilcox at Washington. Since opting to redshirt his first season, Wilcox averaged 8.1 points as a freshman and 14.2 points as a sophomore.
“He was ready to go and he helped us,” Romar said.
The payoffs continue. Wilcox, who is the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week, scored 25 points in Wednesday’s 64-54 win over Colorado. The Huskies have won four straight games, improving their record to 12-5 overall and 4-0 in the Pac-12.
Wilcox’s play has also risen. He’s the league’s top scorer in conference games, averaging 22.3 points.
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak noted that Wilcox is doing great and has improved dramatically from a year ago.
“He’s going to be a pro. He’s a legitimate NBA player,” said Krystkowiak, who added that Wilcox is more than just a tremendous offensive player and a great defender. “He does it all. There’s a little similarity in my mind between him and Damian Lillard.”
In sizing up Saturday’s game, Krystkowiak had even more praise for Wilcox.
“I’m proud that he’s a Utah kid,” Krystkowiak said. “But we’re going to have to put the lock-down on him and do all we can to limit some of his touches because he’s a heckuva player.”
Wilcox is not the only concern the Utes (8-9, 0-5) have. Krystkowiak noted that the Huskies have a lot of athletes and guys playing with confidence.
“They get after you defensively and push the tempo,” he said, while comparing them to Arizona in terms of size and athleticism. “It’s going to be a heckuva challenge.”
EXTRA STUFF: Utah is 0-12 in Pac-12 road games since joining the league. The Utes' last conference victory on the road came at New Mexico in the Mountain West Conference nearly two years ago . . . Washington is seeking to open conference play with a 5-0 mark for the first time since 1984 . . . The Huskies lead the all-time series against the Utes, 7-5 — including a 57-53 win in the Huntsman Center last season . . . Wilcox’s father, Craig, played for BYU from 1993-95.
Utah (8-9, 0-5) at Washington (12-5, 4-0)
Hec Edmundson Pavilion, Seattle
Saturday, 9 p.m. (MT)
Radio: ESPN 700AM
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