Game Preview- Utah vs Washington
Facts and Factors
Saturday's game marks the 12th all-time meeting between Washington and Utah. The Huskies lead the series, 6-5. UW has won the last two meetings after the Utes had run off three straight wins. Their last meeting resulted in an 83-77 Husky win in Seattle in 2007.
Utah's leading scorer is Josh "Jiggy" Watkins, at 15.5 points per game, which ranks sixth in the Pac-12 conference (including all games). He also tops the Utes in assists with 5.2 helpers per contest, which is second-best in the Pac-12. Jason Washburn is Utah's top rebounder at 6.9 boards per game and second-leading scorer with 11.1 points per contest.
The Utes are coming off Thursday's thrilling 62-60 overtime victory as they captured their first conference win as members of the Pac-12.
Washington's top scorer is Tony Wroten at 17.1 points per game, which ranks second in the Pac-12. He is one of three Huskies who average double digits, along with C.J. Wilcox (15.6) and Terrence Ross (14.3). Aziz N'Diaye is the Huskies' leading rebounder at 7.7 per contest, while Abdul Gaddy leads UW in assists with 4.8 per game.
Washington won its first two conference games before dropping its last outing at Colorado, 87-69. Their conference wins both came at home against Oregon State, 95-80, and Oregon, 76-60.
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Points may be extremely difficult to come by right now for the Utes, and it's hard to imagine where they'd be without Josh Watkins, who leads the club with 15.1 points per game and is one of only two players averaging in double figures. Watkins started the season strong before hitting a rough patch of late and really struggling with his stroke from mid-December on. The Utes are hoping he snapped out of that funk with a 20-point barrage in the win over Washington State, which included a nifty behind-the-back dribble to clear space for the game-winning jumper in the final seconds. He also contributed seven points and six assists in the victory. He'll have his hands full Saturday with a Washington team that has the necessary depth and length at the guard position to pester him throughout.
BY THE NUMBERS:
8.7 -- Utah's 3-point field-goal percentage in the loss to Colorado. The Utes converted just two of 23 attempts.
QUOTE TO NOTE:
"Regardless of the score, we wanted to make a statement, like we're not going to lay down for anyone, and I think that's kind of what we did a little bit. It's not the way we wanted to start off, but we have to regroup." -- Utah C Jason Washburn, after the 44-point loss at Colorado.
The Utes will have their hands full with the Huskies, who would seem to have too much firepower. There is no easy scouting report on defending UW, which features three high-scoring underclassmen in the backcourt: freshman Tony Wroten Jr., and sophomores Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox. The Huskies battled some chemistry issues early this season, but it's hard to see how Utah can stay close, much less win this game.
The future cannot get here fast enough for first-year coach Larry Krystkowiak. Given the team's current arc, it won't be surprising if there are roster changes before the end of this season. And there could be a massive overhaul in the offseason. Krystkowiak already has signed five newcomers for next season, and these are his players, ready to embrace his agenda. Pity any returning player who doesn't jump onboard quickly and with enthusiasm.
--Junior C Jason Washburn recorded 10 points and seven boards in the loss to Colorado and followed that up with 11 points in the overtime win over Washington State. It was the fourth time in the last five games he's reached double digits. He's hit 26 of 35 shots (74.3 percent) from the field over the past five games.
--Junior F Dijon Farr has shot only 15 free throws this season despite averaging 22.3 minutes of playing time. Junior G Chris Hines, meanwhile, has made it to the charity stripe just 13 times. He plays 24.9 minutes per game.
--G Kareem Storey was mired in the kind of rut that freshmen sometimes face. He was scoreless on combined 0-for-8 shooting in 54 minutes on the floor over the past three games entering the new year. Storey scored four points Thursday against Washington State.
ON THE SPOT:
Junior point guard Abdul Gaddy was regarded as a major recruiting coup when the Huskies got him to commit for the Class of 2009 after he had decommitted from Arizona following the retirement of Lute Olson.
But Gaddy continues to struggle to reach the potential that had many then calling him one of the best two or three point guard prospects in the country.
His problems have included an ACL injury suffered in January 2011 that cost him the rest of last season. Declared healthy for this season, Gaddy and the Huskies were hoping for a breakout, but it's yet to happen. Games like Thursday's against Colorado have been a little too common for Gaddy. In 33 minutes, he had just one assist, scored just four points on 2-of-5 shooting and struggled defensively.
Gaddy came into the game leading the Pac-12 in assist-to-turnover ratio, so it's hardly been all bad. But he needs to make more happen, especially on the road, where Washington is 0-5 this season.
BY THE NUMBERS:
22 -- Points the Huskies scored off of 15 Oregon turnovers.
QUOTE TO NOTE:
"We've got to get to a point where we can go on the road and not change how we play at all. Still continue to defend, take care of the ball and do the things that are necessary to be the best we can be in any situation. We're not there yet, but 2-0 beats the alternative." -- UW coach Lorenzo Romar, whose club fell to 0-5 on the road with the loss at Colorado.
Washington's defensive game plan begins with Utah senior G Josh Watkins, the team's top scorer. C Jason Washburn has made strides from a year ago and even this season and is capable of posting a double-double. But the Huskies have too much talent for Utah, and if they avoid a huge letdown they should easily prevail here.
Redshirt freshman wing Desmond Simmons is becoming a significant factor off the bench for the Huskies, adding to their depth. He had 13 points and eight rebounds in 28 minutes against Oregon State, giving him 43 points and 35 rebounds over a four-game stretch. He shot 17 for 30 in those four games. Wilcox cooled a bit against Oregon, contributing two points, six rebounds and three assists.
--Senior F Darnell Gant is struggling mightily. He has produced just two points on 0-for-7 shooting from the floor in 35 minutes in Washington's past two games.
--Junior PG Abdul Gaddy had his typical understated weekend against the Oregon schools. He had 13 points and six assists in the win over Oregon State, then scored 12 points, including 3-for-3 from the 3-point arc, against Oregon.
Was that a mirage we saw the other day or a sign of things to come? Could Utah actually be turning the corner? Washington has as much talent and athleticism as any team in the conference, certainly more than Washington State does. They may be undisciplined at times and frustrating to watch, but the Huskies can still play. Until Utah shows more consistency, it's hard to pick the Utes.
Washington 77 Utah 58
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