EUGENE, Ore. — Even if Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak and players like senior center Jason Washburn don’t put much stock in moral victories, Saturday’s 73-64 loss at Oregon may be an exception.
Less than a year after getting drilled by 46 points at Matthew Knight Arena, the Utes put up quite a fight against the 19th-ranked Ducks. They led by eight at halftime and remained ahead until just under 11 minutes left to play.
“Our guys are coming along,” Krystkowiak said. “Our program is headed in the right direction.”
Krystkowiak noted that the Utes had four freshmen on the floor at times, gaining valuable experience in one of the Pac-12’s most challenging environments.
“It’s encouraging to know that we can compete with anybody — any given night we can compete,” said freshman guard Brandon Taylor.
Despite residing in last place with a 2-9 conference record, Krystkowiak is seeing some good things out of the Utes.
“I’m encouraged that we’re making good progress,” he said. “Our guys are trying and they’re really coachable. I think our staff is staying on them and pulling guys aside.”
As the conference season winds down, Krystkowiak is hopeful some guys will start making some shots and begin feeling better about themselves.
Against Oregon, Washburn led the way with 20 points. Jarred DuBois added 15 and Jordan Loveridge finished with 14. The rest of the team was a combined 4-of-16 from the field.
Rebounding was another major shortcoming. The Ducks outboarded the Utes 41-19. They pulled down 19 on the offensive end, leading to a 24-6 advantage in second-chance points.
“As a big, that’s squarely on my shoulders,” said Washburn, who topped the Utes with seven rebounds. “They were having a field day on the offensive glass.”
Washburn added that Utah’s 30-22 halftime lead would have been bigger if the Utes had not given up 11 offensive rebounds in the first half.
Obviously, there’s work to be done and things to shore up as Utah prepares for this week’s home games against Arizona State and Arizona.
“We’re just trying to put this thing together heading down the stretch,” Krystkowiak said. “But we’re not playing bad basketball right now. It’s a pretty fine line.”
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