SALT LAKE CITY — It took less than 30 seconds for Kenneth Ogbe to make his presence felt for Utah in Tuesday night’s loss at Boise State.
Ogbe, an 18-year-old freshman from Germany, was inserted into the game early in the second half because starting small forward Princeton Onwas had been ejected in the first half for a flagrant foul and Dakarai Tucker had been ineffective in his place.
The first time Ogbe touched the ball, he swished a 3-pointer from out front to cut the Broncos’ lead to five. A couple of minutes later, he hit a 3-pointer from the left corner and followed up less than two minutes later with another 3 from the same spot.
Just like that, Ogbe had nine points and helped the Utes go from facing a nine-point deficit to holding a four-point advantage as Boise State coaches scrambled to figure out who the kid was that was raining down 3s on them.
Ogbe, who was averaging just 3.8 points and six minutes per game on the season, ended up playing most of the second half for the Utes, who came up just short in a 69-67 defeat to the Broncos.
The 6-foot-6 Ogbe will certainly get more playing time Saturday when the Utes (6-1) take on Fresno State (6-3) at 3 p.m. at the Huntsman Center.
“We’ve got some freshmen who are good basketball players and we’ve got to the stage of the season where not one of them has played consistently,’’ said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “But these are the things that a coach remembers — when a guy steps in like Kenneth did. I like his length and the more he gets comfortable in his environment, he’s got an incredible future.’’
Krystkowiak said Ogbe is one of those players who likes to play “in front of the lights” and Ogbe agreed, saying, “I’m excited before every game and I like to play in front of people.’’
The problem is there’s a logjam at the small forward position, where Tucker has started five games this year and Onwas two. Krystkowiak doesn’t say how he’ll do it, but says of Ogbe, “That’s a guy we need to get into our rotation.’’
The Utes will be trying to get back on the winning track against a Fresno State team that is similar to Boise State with a quick, guard-oriented squad that likes to run.
Sophomore guard Marvelle Harris leads the team at 18.0 ppg, and Oklahoma State transfer point guard Cezar Guerrero leads the team with 4.4 assists per game while scoring 14.7 ppg. Three other players average in double figures: Allen Huddleston (11.9 ppg), Paul Watson (11.6 ppg) and Tyler Johnson (14.3 ppg), who also leads the team in rebounding with 8.2 boards per game.
Fresno State is off to its best start since 2006-07, with losses to Pitt and Pacific on the road and to Drake at home. Three of the Bulldogs' six wins came in overtime, including their last two home games against CSU Bakersfield (96-86) and Northern Arizona (71-67).
GAME NOTES: The Utes are expected to start Jordan Loveridge (16.4 ppg, 10.1 rpg), Delon Wright (15.1 ppg, 5.6 apg), Renan Lenz (9.9 ppg), Brandon Taylor (11.3 ppg) and either Onwas (7.4 ppg) or Tucker (6.7 ppg). ... The last time the Utes and Bulldogs met in 2011, the Bulldogs embarrassed the Utes in an 82-52 victory in Fresno. ... Utah leads the all-time series with Fresno 9-4 and is 6-1 in Salt Lake City. ... After Saturday’s game, the Utes will play Idaho State Wednesday before meeting rival BYU Saturday night.