The Runnin’ Utes keep running away
From opponents on the field of play
How good can this team really be?
We’ll just have to wait and see
COMMENTARY — Utah continues to provide a veritable cornucopia of reasons for Ute fans to cheer across a wide variety of sports. Nevertheless, this week I will only touch on two of them.
After their sole conference loss to Arizona on the road, the Runnin’ Utes bounced back with two big conference wins over Washington State and Washington in the friendly confines of the Huntsman Center this past week.
In particular, Utah shot the lights out against Washington on Sunday night. The team shot 54 percent from the field as a whole and an amazing 61 percent on 3-point attempts with 11 made treys. Brandon Taylor and Dakari Tucker combined to make eight 3-pointers and Tucker even converted a 4-point play after being fouled on one of his long-range bombs.
Speaking of big 3-point shots, early in the game on Sunday night Jordan Loveridge hit a 3 that gave him more than 1,000 points for his career at Utah. That puts him in an elite group of players, including Keith Van Horn, Josh Grant, Tom Chambers, Andre Miller, Michael Doleac and Andrew Bogut. One of my favorite scoring stats is the 1,009 points scored by Billy “The Hill” McGill in the 1961-62 season in 26 games, making him the only Ute to ever score 1,000 points in a single season.
Even Coach Larry Krystkowiak was pleased with his team’s performance.
“Defensively, I thought we were pretty solid,” he said. “We moved the basketball extremely well, with 20 assists. Some guys made that stretch where we hit a bunch of 3s and that is when things are at its finest. When you get some stops and hit some 3s, things add up quick and a tight game can really get carried away. I was really proud of a lot of our guys.”
The Runnin’ Utes continue to run teams out of the gym, especially on their home court. In their five conference home games thus far, Utah is outscoring its opponents by an average of 24.8 points per game. Even Arizona is not consistently beating teams by such a large margin on its home court.
Last season, the Runnin’ Utes had nine conference games decided by five points or less (with Utah going 2-7 in those games). In their seven conference games to date this season, the Runnin’ Utes have yet to have a game decided by less than 17 points; unfortunately, one of those games was an 18-point loss to Arizona in Tucson.
With identical conference records of 6-1, Utah and Arizona are starting to separate themselves from the rest of the pack in the Pac-12. Just behind them are Stanford and Oregon State at 5-2, then Oregon at 4-3, with those five teams being the only teams with a winning record in conference play.
With the Sundance Film Festival kicking off, a large army of PIB’s (People-In-Black) descended upon Park City in the peaks overlooking the Salt Lake Valley. Meanwhile down on The Hill, fans were encouraged to wear black to the annual black-out meet as Utah hosted UCLA in its gymnastics conference opener.
This week’s gee whiz fact is 2.0 — the margin of victory for the Red Rocks over the Bruins in the Huntsman Center last Friday night. In a sport where scores are fractioned out into thousandths of a point, many meets are decided by less than a single point. A two-point victory is an absolute blowout, especially over a team that was ranked No. 8 in the nation at the time.
Utah coach Greg Marsden did not take the win over UCLA for granted.
“These have been the two best teams in the Pac-12 for a long time,” he said. “They are going to be a very good team by the end of the season. It’s very exciting for us to win that meet any time, any way!”
Notably, a lot was said about Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski becoming the first Division 1 men’s basketball coach to rack up 1,000 wins last week. In my book, Coach K is absolutely one of the best, if not the best, coach in the game today. However, I would just like to point out that Marsden notched his 1,000th victory last year as the first 1,000-win coach in gymnastics, and with all due respect to Coach K, Marsden has a higher winning percentage.
The home crowd of 14,873 fans demonstrated why the Red Rocks have such huge home-court advantage. Not only are crowds of that size uncommon at a gymnastics meet, they are rarely seen at the men’s basketball games. The Runnin’ Utes are only averaging 11,179 fans for their home games this season, and Arizona is tops in the conference averaging 14,556 fans per home game. Additionally, last Friday night the fans cheered performances from both schools, reveling in remarkable routines, and offering encouragement after falls, but still reserving the loudest cheers for the talented and beloved Red Rocks.
Here’s hoping all of the Utah teams can continue to stay red hot, especially as the Runnin’ Utes head out on a road trip against the Los Angeles teams this week, and the Red Rocks take a trip themselves down south to Arizona.
Dwayne Vance is a columnist covering the Utah Utes. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. George News.
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