The Utes put together one of their better performances in the last couple of weeks against the Cougars. The Utes were led by Rylan Jones’ 24 points, as the young Utah point guard took over in the second half. This game was also about some of the “unsung” guys on this roster, as Mikael Jantunen played a great game, with 16 points, while Brandon Carlson had his best game on both sides of the ball with 12 points and three blocks.
Utah did come out of the gate a bit flat and slow after the win over UW on Thursday, but an intentional foul jump started the Utes. After a pair of Jones free throws, the Utes went on a 12-0 run, and built up a nice 12 point lead going into half time, 37-25. Jantunen kept was the head of the snake for the Utes in that opening half, with 10 of his points. Utah held the Cougs leading scoring Elleby without a field goal in that opening half, and it was looking like the Utes may run away and hide.
To open the second half, WSU came out shooting the lights out. They came out to a 18-5 run, after three deep shots by Elleby, and things started to look dicey, as the Cougs actually took a 43-42 lead. That’s when Jones put on the cape and took the Utes home. He scored 13 of Utah’s final 20 points. He was the counter on every little run Washington State would make. The Cougs would hit a big shot to get back to single digits, and Jones would either penetrate for an easy layup, or hit a big three to counter WSU’s. Jones made the game looks easy, going 8 of 10 from the field, and was in control of the game almost the entire time.
Utah’s offense looked so much better tonight, as it was moving with a purpose and finding the open guy. They shot 63% from the field, including 40% from three. It was interesting because Utah only took 10 shots from deep, but they were attacking the paint all game long, as they shot 14 of 19 from the free throw line. Washington State on the other hand had just five free throw attempts. Utah had 14 turnovers on the night, but most of those actually came in the firs time five minutes of the game.
This home stand is exactly what the Utes needed, and it was great to see some other guys pitch in during these two wins. Whether it was Battin, Jantunen, Carlson, or Jaxon Brechley hit some big threes, this is the home stand Utah needed to have to stop the nose dive.
Now the Utes will travel to LA to take on USC on Thursday, and UCLA on Super Bowl Sunday. The question is now can Utah take the show on the road, now that they have regained their footing. This USC team they’re about to play is very talented, so they need to get ready for a very tough road swing.
Post game quotes:
“You know at the end of the day that might be the most enjoyable part of the game when you see shots go in. I think it energizes you and I give our guys a lot of credit from the other night when we were shooting as miserably as we did and we managed to defend and get enough stops. It’s fun when you get on a little roll and see the ball go in and we maintained our effort defensively at the same time, with the exception of one little rough stretch. But, I think more importantly, I really witnessed our guys making the extra pass. We were kind of almost to a fault. I thought Timmy had a couple of opportunities around the rim with the option being to shoot and he tried to pass and they were turnovers but we really shared the basketball... I think what happens is when you are missing shots you kind of change the way you’re playing and guys start pressing a little bit and we just need to keep making the play the game presents to us. Which involves a lot of the time sharing it, and then you have to have confidence that the shots are going in. We’ve shot a lot, put the time in, and it was miserably the other night but it was nice tonight for a number of guys, between Rylan and Mickey. Those guys were super solid giving us a performance and Timmy was kind of his usual self so it was good.”
Coach K on turning the corner from a losing streak to a winning streak and taking that on the road...
“The message to our guys, when we ran into four losses is the same message that we have right now. It truly is about the next opponent and we even break it down further into four minute segments of a game. You know, keep it simple, don’t let your mind get confused or polluted with things. Everybody is in control of a certain aspect of their game. You know us as coaches, we’re in control of certain things. We have a really good understanding of what our guys can do, you don’t ask people to do things they can’t do. Players should not do things they can’t do and if everybody starts accepting those roles I think you win more possessions and at the end of the day I think that’s what it’s about. You know we look back at the Washington game we managed to win one more possession and whether we win or lose you are never as good as you think you are and you are never as bad as you think you are. I knew we were a lot better team than having lost four games in a row. That is some tough competition when you head out on the road after a tough Oregon game and our guys had a really good week of practice so we stayed in it.”
Coach K on the defense having a Jerry Sloan mentality…
“Well, maybe we struggled a little bit offensively in that little streak of losing some games and trying to find an identity running up against some elite teams and sometimes you have to sit back and try to not spend as much time trying to fix what’s going on offensively. Let’s get back to some of the basic shell drills that we do... and Jerry Sloan is something that gets written on our board every game ‘GYFG’. Jerry’s mentality for a number of years throughout his career wasn’t about some fancy scheme, it was just the guy that’s standing in front of you. Guard that flipping guy, you know, and there isn’t a bunch of coverages kind like back in the playground days. I think we’ve had a little bit of a renewed sense of that with our guys where they are getting down and taking some pride and staying between the basket and our guy so we don’t have to help as much. We’ve gone back to some of those basics and I’ve always said that defense wins championships...I think the defense at the end of the day will win you a lot of games so we kind of went back to that a little bit.”
Freshman Forward #20 Mikael Jantunen
On how satisfying the last two games have been after going on a four-game losing streak…
“We just have to start from the defensive end and get our stuff together. When we play good defense it relates to offense and I feel like that was the focus point this week. Just get back on track.”