Bleeding Red: Loveridge, Washburn key in Utes’ first win

Washburn is the something old
Loveridge is the something new
DuBois is something borrowed
And we don’t need nothin’ blue

COMMENTARY – What do Jason Washburn and Jordan Loveridge have in common?

Well … there is the Huntsman Center’s announcer who insists on referring to both of them by using only the first initial of their first name, as in “J-Wash” and “J-Love” (I hate it when he does that).

More to the point, they are both pillars of the Runnin’ Utes, holding up opposite ends of the program.

Jason Washburn is a senior from Battle Creek, Mich., who probably had a tough time finding Utah on a map until fellow Michiganian Jim Boylen recruited him to come play for the Runnin’ Utes. Washburn saw significant playing time as a freshman. Unlike many of Boylen’s prized recruits, Washburn did not abandon Utah when Boylen left. After David Foster went down with an injury last year, Washburn was the only true big man left on the team. He is the only current player who is a regular contributor and has played four years at Utah.

At the other end of the spectrum, true freshman Jordan Loveridge is a local boy from West Jordan. Loveridge has been a fixture in the starting line-up virtually from the first moment he donned a Utah jersey, and isn’t likely to be displaced anytime soon. Loveridge is the ringleader of a band of very talented newcomers, including transfers like Jared DuBois, as well as other freshmen such as Brandon Taylor.

Washburn has been the centerpiece – literally – of this team for years, while Loveridge will be the centerpiece of this team for years to come.

Ironically, on a team defined by its defense, the talents of both Washburn and Loveridge tilt more in favor of their offense.

During a pregame shoot-around last year, I noticed Jason Washburn taking shots from the 3-point line. I teased him that he looked like a little man inside a big man’s body. He smiled back and immediately responded that it didn’t matter what size he was, he could hit a shot from anywhere on the floor. That is a true statement. The really good news is that he is judicious about when he takes his shots from the outside, and he realizes that for the most part his bread is still buttered inside the paint.

Meanwhile, Loveridge’s jump shot is reminiscent of Manute Bol’s odd wind-up – they both have somewhat of a catapult motion to their shot. It worked for Bol, and so far it’s working for Loveridge. Being a true freshman has not seemed to put a damper on Loveridge’s willingness to pull the trigger. Fortunately, however, Loveridge is far from being a shot-gunning ball-hog.

Offense is what the Runnin’ Utes lacked in their first five conference games. Much to my relief, Utah finally dialed up some offense in a big road win against Washington, leading from tip to buzzer. Washburn and Loveridge both played major roles in Utah’s offensive output.

Washburn had 8 of Utah’s first 12 points in the game’s first five minutes, helping the Utes to a 10-point lead. Washburn also had four rebounds over the same five-minute stretch and would finish the contest with 18 points and seven rebounds.

Utah opened up the second half with an 8-point lead, which soon become 10, and then was extended to 14 by back-to-back baskets by Loveridge – the second a thundering dunk – over an 18-second span of time. Loveridge would finish with 17 points, five rebounds, four assists and a steal.

Utah also got a lot of help from freshman Brandon Taylor, who exploded for a team-high 19 points, supplemented by six assists, two steals and two rebounds.

I really like the fact that Utah got big offensive games out of three players, rather than just one or two. I am thrilled that two of those three players are freshmen who are going to help Utah for years to come. Even better is the fact that Utah has a lot more offensive firepower that it can utilize in any given game depending on how the other team is defending, including DuBois, Glenn Dean and Cedric Martin.

Utah shot a blistering 60 percent for the game, while holding Washington to only 37 percent from the field. Now that’s how you win a game. Like I said last week, just shoot the ball! It makes a world of difference when Utah takes good shots in the flow of the offense, rather than trying to force shots as the shot clock expires.

The win over Washington was significant in many ways. It was Utah’s first conference win this season. It was Utah’s first road conference win since it joined the Pac-12. And it was Utah’s first road conference win in nearly two years, dating back to a 62-60 victory over New Mexico on Feb. 19, 2011.

One game does not a season make, and Utah still has lots of things to work on. Turnovers continue to haunt Utah as it once again lost the turnover battle to Washington giving up the ball 10 times and only taking it away nine times. As Utah held on for the win in the second half, it only shot 10 of 17 from the charity stripe.

I am sure none of this has been lost on Larry Krystkowiak, who will have the Runnin’ Utes ready to play as they mount a home stand against Cal on Thursday followed by Stanford on Sunday.

~

Dwayne Vance is a sports commentator. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: sports@stgnews.com

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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