SALT LAKE CITY — It has dogged him for a couple of weeks, but 5 1/2 minutes into Thursday night's game against Oregon State, Jason Washburn finally got the monkey off his back and joined the 1,000-point club at Utah.
Better yet, the achievement came during a fine overall performance he put together amid one of the better games of the season for the Utes, who broke a four-game losing streak with a 72-61 win and improved to 4-13 in Pac-12 play.
The senior from Michigan finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots in the victory.
“What makes it even sweeter is that it came on a good night for the Utah basketball program," he said of becoming the 35th player in Ute history to score at least 1,000 career points.
Washburn had been in a bit of a scoring funk since putting up 26 points in a win over Arizona State last month. That performance put him within 26 of 1,000, but he only managed 24 points in his last three games.
“I had 10 points against Stanford in the first half and only needed one bucket in the second half and the basketball gods decided that wasn’t happening,’’ he said.
He claimed he wasn’t thinking about it Thursday, but with his team up 10-6 early in the game, he got a nice feed from Jordan Loveridge and sank a jump hook from underneath the basket. Immediately, fans in the student section responded with cheers and pre-printed signs that said “1,000” on them.
“Loveridge found me; I hit that shot; and the way the crowd went off with all the signs, I couldn’t help crack a little smile,’’ Washburn said. “It was meant to happen at home. I’ve got a lot of family in town that got to witness it firsthand and be a part of it. I can’t thank our crowd enough. It’s an emotional feeling.’’
At a timeout a minute later, the PA announcer acknowledged the milestone and Washburn waved to the crowd.
“I tried not to think about it coming into the game. I really didn’t. I tried to stay focused,’’ he said. “I’m in the company of some of the greatest names in Utah history and it’s a real humbling thing to be honest.’’
Washburn now has 1,013 points and could pass Pace Mannion (1,018) and Angelo Robinson on Saturday against Oregon. For Washburn, who has played with 55 different teammates over the past four years, it’s been a struggle at times, but he has persevered.
“Tonight was a milestone that shows when you keep fighting through all the hard times, something good has to come out of it and for me something did.’’
GAME NOTES: Joe Burton, Oregon State’s 6-foot-7, 295-pound senior who wears an orange Mohawk, could have joined Washburn in the 1,000-point club by scoring six points Thursday. However, after scoring the first point of the game on a free throw, Burton went scoreless the rest of the way. ... Against Utah in Corvalis, Ore., Burton had 17 points, 10 assists and and seven rebounds. ... At halftime, four Utah football players participated in a dunk contest. Jason Whittingham was the winner with a 360 dunk, edging out Eric Rowe and Keith McGill, while Westlee Tonga missed his attempt. Some football coaches and 125 football players were on hand for the game in Section F. ... Oregon State only had three fouls in the first half and didn’t get its first foul called until the 5:04 mark, which elicited a loud cheer from the Utah student section. However in the second half, the Beavers were called for 12 fouls. ... Both teams struggled from the free-throw line as Utah went 9 for 16 (56.3 percent) and OSU went 6 for 14 (45.1 percent). ... OSU coach Craig Robinson is the brother-in-law of President Barack Obama.