STANFORD, Calif. — So far, this season hasn’t been one to shout about for the Utah basketball team.
The Utes have hovered around .500 all season, never winning more than two in a row and never losing more than two consecutive games. They stand 9-8 on the season and 3-2 in Pac-12 play as they head west for a pair of games that can go a long way toward determining the success of their season.
Utah plays a pair of teams below them in the league standings, matching up with Stanford (2-4) Thursday night (7 p.m. MST) and Cal (0-6) Saturday night (8 p.m. MST).
The Utes are in a four-team logjam tied for fourth in the Pac-12, and two road wins would put them at plus-2 in league play with two more road wins than home losses. Only one other team in the league, Washington, is plus-2 right now.
“Stanford is a little bit like us — up and down with a few injury bugs,” coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “They’re very solid at home, they have a lot of different defensive looks … have some young talented players … they have an awful lot of length … they pose some different issues for us.”
Since joining the Pac-12 for the 2011-12 season, Utah has compiled a 5-6 record against Stanford — 5-1 at home, but 0-5 on the road. For the Utes, Maples Pavilion has been the hardest place to win in the league, along with the McKale Center in Arizona (0-7).
The Utes have lost five straight games at Stanford with only one being a blowout. The other four losses have been by one, two, three and six points.
Krystkowiak can’t put a finger on why the Utes have been so unsuccessful at Maples, saying, “There have been an awful lot of close games there, no doubt about it.” However, he can remember his most disappointing loss.
That came in 2016 when a team led by Brandon Taylor, Kyle Kuzma and Jakob Poeltl — a team that would go on to reach the NCAA Sweet 16 — lost 70-68 in overtime. In that game, the Utes blew a double-digit lead and missed four free throws over the final 18 seconds, including two by Taylor with two seconds left in regulation.
“We just needed to hit one of them to not go to overtime,” Krystkowiak said. “That one stung.”
The Utes didn’t play at Stanford last year in the Pac-12 schedule rotation, but in their most recent game there in February 2017, they lost a late lead and were beaten by a 3-7 Cardinal team led by Reid Travis, who scored 26 points in an 81-75 Stanford win.
This year’s Ute team is led by Sedrick Barefield at 15.8 ppg, while Donnie Tillman averages 11.2 ppg and 5.6 rpg. Freshman forward Timmy Allen has come on strong of late, producing a double-double Sunday against Colorado, and averages 10.6 ppg and 4.6 rpg. Freshman forward Riley Battin (7.1 ppg) is expected to start, along with center Jayce Johnson (6.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and guard Parker Van Dyke (6.5 ppg).
Stanford is led by sophomore forward KZ Okpala at 17.9 ppg, followed by sophomore guard Daejon Davis at 12.1 ppg. Oscar da Silva leads the team with 22 blocked shots on the season.11 comments on this story
GAME NOTES: After playing Cal on Saturday, the Utes return home to play Oregon on Thursday and Oregon State on Saturday afternoon. ... Maples Pavilion was built in 1969 and has a capacity of 7,233. The only victory for a Utah team at Stanford came in 1966 when the Utes took a 100-87 victory. ... The Cardinal are 6-1 at home this season, 1-1 in Pac-12 play with the only loss coming to Washington. … The Utes and Cardinal will not play in Salt Lake this season. ... Jerod Haase is in his third year as the Stanford coach.
Utes on the air
Utah (9-8, 3-2) at Stanford (9-9, 2-4)
- Maples Pavilion — Stanford, Calif.
- Thursday, 7 p.m. MST
- TV:Pac-12 Networks
- Radio: ESPN 700AM