In front of the largest crowd of the year, the Runnin' Utes ran Oregon State out of the Huntsman Center Saturday afternoon for their first Pac-12 win of the season.
It was an important game coming off a heartbreaking, last second overtime loss to the tenth-ranked Oregon Ducks, and while the Beavers are hardly elite status, a loss would have devastated a program still trying to find its footing in conference play.
1-1 isn't the most ideal scenario after this short homestand, but it was an absolute must.
Now, feeling confident in victory, the program trips to the Northwest for a tough roadie against Washington and Washington State. The Huskies, who played Arizona close Saturday, has improved over the last couple weeks and look like a difficult, formidable foe. Their cross-state rival, on the hand, look well on their way to becoming the worst team in the Pac-12 for the second year in a row.
I don't anticipate a sweep - but I also don't anticipate dropping both games. Especially to the Cougars.
The good news here is that Utah has, at least the past two seasons, done well against Washington. In their inaugural Pac-12 season, they took the Huskies to the wire after a comeback, though eventually lost 57-53 in Salt Lake - while they beat Washington in Seattle 74-65, which proved to be one of the bigger wins of the early Larry Krystkowiak era.
Of course, they also lost to the Cougars in Pullman a couple days prior to that semi-stunning victory. So, I don't know if we should read too much into it.
Still, I anticipate, with how good this team has looked for much of the season, that they will compete with the Huskies and, unless they completely flop, leave Pullman no worse than 2-2 in Pac-12 play. That would put them on course for the 9-9 finish I had hoped for prior to the start of conference play.
So, this is a big week for the basketball team. If they're going to make noise, and still keep their tournament hopes alive, they've got to win at least one of these games.
The Oregon loss still stings, especially with how close they came to being 2-0 in the Pac-12, but at this level, you've got to expect heartbreak. The best, and easiest way, to end that heartbreak is to give it back to another fan base. No better way to do that than this Wednesday against the Huskies.
Get it done, Utah!