Utah basketball: Utes return to action Saturday against Oregon State
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Before leaving the Huntsman Center after his team’s 70-68 overtime win over the Utah Utes on Thursday, Oregon coach Dana Altman made a prediction.
“It’s going to be a tough place for the other eight schools that have to play here to get a win,” he said.
A breakaway dunk by Damyean Dotson with 0.6 seconds remaining proved to be the difference as the 10th-ranked Ducks snapped the Utes’ 13-game winning streak at home.
The opportunity to start another one begins Saturday at 2 p.m., ironically against the team Utah defeated to get the last run of success started — Oregon State. The Utes topped the Beavers 72-61 last March.
This year’s Oregon State squad comes to town with an 8-5 record. The Beavers are coming off a 64-58 setback at No. 20 Colorado on Thursday. They’re led by Pac-12 scoring leader Roberto Nelson (21.5 ppg), who had 23 points against the Buffaloes.
“It’s a big game for us,” said Utah forward Jordan Loveridge, who noted that the Utes started off Pac-12 play with some tough losses last season that got their confidence down. After an overtime setback at Arizona State, Utah lost to Arizona by three and UCLA by four. The Utes went on to lose their first five conference games in 2013.
It’s a beginning they’re determined not to repeat. As such, Loveridge explained there’s no looking back — not even to Thursday’s heartbreaking loss.
“We know we can’t just sit back and whine about it or think about it too much — just because we don’t want to lose the next one,” he said. “We’ve got to get up to play the next team just because how good the league is.”
Loveridge added that the Utes aren’t lacking in confidence. They don’t view their strong showing against Oregon as any sort of surprise.
“Other teams are going to feel like (that). They know a few players on our team but they don’t know our whole team. It wasn’t a surprise to us going into the game. We knew we could play with them,” Loveridge said. “We know we can compete and play with anyone in this league. We know we’re going to have tough, down-to-the-wire games like this all the time — especially (with) how good the league is. So hopefully next time we can take care of the ball and make a couple of more plays.”
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak also expressed confidence in the team. The 11-win Utes’ only setbacks this season were two-point losses to Boise State (69-67) and Oregon.
“I like our guys. I like our focus and the fact that we’re going to stay together,” Krystkowiak said. “You hope that you’re not in all these nail-biters going down the stretch. But I don’t question our guys’ ability to make plays when they’re presented with the opportunity next time.”
EXTRA STUFF: Utah leads the all-time series with Oregon State by a 13-10 margin. The Utes are 10-1 against the Beavers in Salt Lake City. ... Oregon State is coached by Craig Robinson, the brother of U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama. He’s in his sixth season with the Beavers and has an 86-94 record. ... Utah leads the nation is two-point field goal percentage (.636).
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