SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s progress is now on paper. With Thursday’s 72-61 victory over Oregon State in the Huntsman Center, the Utes surpassed last season’s Pac-12 win total. They enter Saturday’s regular-season finale against Oregon with four conference victories — one more than a year ago.
In his postgame remarks, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak jokingly noted the absence of confetti and champagne in the wake of the Utes also doubling their overall win total from six in 2011-12 to 12.
“I never thought about that, but I did think about the fact that we were in a three-way tie,” he said about the significance of topping the win total. “Last year is not as important. It’s just important, I think, that we move up a little bit.”
Jordan Loveridge scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds as the Utes prevailed handily. Jarred DuBois and Jason Washburn added 15 points apiece, while Brandon Taylor contributed 12.
Oregon State’s only lead was at 1-0. After that, Utah went on to build a lead as large as 19 points in the second half.
“We came out with the proper energy we needed,” Taylor said of the momentum. “We just went out there and played hard. We freed our minds up and just got it going. It was a beautiful night for us.”
Things went so well, in fact, that Krystkowiak is hopeful the Utes build on it Saturday and put something together in next week’s Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas. They’re currently the No. 10 seed, holding a one-game lead over the Beavers and Washington State.
“At the end of the day you want to control you own destiny,” Krystkowiak acknowledged.
And that’s exactly the position the Utes (12-17, 4-13) are in with one game left to play. They set themselves up by controlling the boards against Oregon State.
After being outrebounded in nine straight games, Krystkowiak was determined to reverse the trend.
“I honestly thought whoever won the rebound game tonight was going to win,” he said.
Utah wound up outrebounding Oregon State by a 39-29 margin. Krystkowiak also thought the Utes were locked in defensively. The combination, thereof, allowed the offense to click.
The Utes shot 46.6 percent from the field and outscored the Beavers 21-5 on points off of turnovers. Oregon State got off to a sluggish start, connecting on only 37 percent of its shots in the opening half.
“We just came out and we just defended,” said Loveridge, who logged a game-high 39 minutes.
The freshman helped set the tone with two steals and block, as well as aggressive defense on Oregon State standouts Joe Burton and Eric Moreland. The duo combined for just three points.
“That kid was a monster tonight,” Washburn said.
Contributions, though, were plentiful. Eight Utes scored and pulled down rebounds. Six were credited with assists and four made blocks and steals.
“If there was ever a team win since I’ve been here, you’ve got to really throw this one in the mix,” said Washburn, who become the 35th player in Utah history to score 1,000 career points. He reached the milestone on a layup with 14:34 remaining in the first half.
Hitting the mark, however, wasn’t the only thing that pleased Washburn. He acknowledged that getting more Pac-12 wins this season is also meaningful.
“Absolutely it means something,” Washburn said. “This team is better than our record.”
As such, the senior isn’t satisfied. He’s eager to have Utah win back-to-back Pac-12 games for the first time. The opportunity to do so comes Saturday against Oregon.
It would, obviously, represent another step forward for the rebuilding program.
“I feel like all year we’ve been showing progress, but to finally get some wins that shows even more,” Loveridge said. “We’re just going to keep trying to take every game and get as many wins as we can.”
EXTRA STUFF: The attendance was 8,019. ... Pac-12 scoring leader Roberto Nelson finished with 18 points to lead Oregon State. ... Loveridge had six offensive rebounds. ... Moreland led the Beavers with 11 rebounds. ... Utah had a 13-6 advantage in second-chance points. ... The lead changed hands only once. ... Oregon State heads to Colorado on Saturday.