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Utah basketball game guide: Oregon State comes in cold, but Utes expect Beavers to fight

Published January 27, 2017 8:36 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A Montana TV station came down to interview Larry Krystkowiak after Friday's practice, covering the fourth bout between Utah's head coach and Oregon State Wayne Tinkle — former teammates, former coaching colleagues and friends.

"What is your familiarity level with Wayne?" Krystkowiak was asked.

They've game-planned and broken down film together. They've knocked each other on their backs in practices. They've clinked beers and chowed down on burgers at Montana bars.

They're acquainted.

"There's really not a lot of secrets," Krystkowiak said. "We played for like-minded coaches. So the things we've picked up along the way are kind of in our blood. You see a lot of similarities in what both of us try to do."

But for this match-up, there's significant divergence: While Utah is trying to toe its way into the top tier of the league, the Beavers are in a free fall. Not only have they lost every conference game so far, they've Lamar, Savannah State, Portland and Long Beach State. They're young, they're injured, and they're outmatched just about every night.

Still, it's far from Krystkowiak's nature to underestimate his old teammate. While he knows what's coming, he feels that his team needs to be ready to scrap if need be.

"I don't think they're going to give in, give up and roll over," he said. "You know you're going to be in for a little bit of a dogfight."

After all, what's a little dogfight between old friends?

Time, Place and [radio waves in] Space • It's probably foolish to expect the same atmosphere as the sell-out on Thursday, but the Huntsman Center will host another game, this one at 5 p.m. If you're not joining us in person, the game will air on Pac-12 Networks and ESPN 700 AM. The Utes are doing their annual Teddy Bear Toss: Bring a new teddy bear to toss onto the court at halftime. The bears will be donated to local children in need, according to Utah athletics. The coaching staff again will be participating in Coaches vs. Cancer, wearing sneakers to support the American Cancer Society.

The Line • The Utes are 21.5-point favorites against the Beavers, according to Vegas Insider. Only twice has Utah been favored by more this year. Utah is 10-7-1 against the spread this season, their last loss to Oregon breaking a streak of five straight wins against the Vegas line.

Pregame Quotable • Parker Van Dyke on end-of-game situations, such as when Utah missed the last four shots against Oregon: "We're such a young team still. A lot of us, that's our first time playing in those situations and in a lot of those big-game moments. But that being said, I still think we're good enough and mature to make those plays in those big moments. We have done it in some other games, against Arizona State and some other close games. We're capable of doing it, we just need to finish."

Opposing coach • Tinks had a great sophomore season, with a 19-13 record that included the program's first NCAA Tournament appearance in 26 years. But after the rise has come the fall: While Tinkle has several high-rated prospects on his roster, the pieces he's surrounded them with haven't performed at a competitive level — and that's become even more clear with injuries. As surely as Tinkle's start at Oregon State drew the right kind of praise, he's now 40-44 in his third year and having the kind of season Krystkowiak struggled through in his first year at Utah. While he can expect a bounce back if he keeps his current stars and they're able to stay healthy (his son among them), Tinkle is learning a truth that has been ironclad for a long time: It's hard to win in Corvallis.

Telling Stat • From the league's best team in turnover margin to the worst: OSU averages 3.7 turnovers more than its opponents, and has nearly 16 giveaways per game. The Beavers' assist-to-turnover ratio is also the Pac-12's worst.

Beavers Roster Overview • As mentioned above, there's good players here. Stephen Thompson Jr. is one of the exciting young guards in the league, a lanky playmaker averaging 16.2 ppg. Drew Eubanks has some pop in the post, shooting 59 percent while averaging 15.2 ppg and 8.6 rpg. Freshman Jaquori McLaughlin, who picked OSU over Utah among others, has some signs of coming along but his shooting touch is raw (38.7 percent). After that, the cast takes a dive. Kendal Manuel at 6-foot-4 gives some scoring addition (8 ppg) but no one else averages more than 4 points. A lot of that can be chalked up to injury: Tres Tinkle, the expected star of the team, has missed 15 games. Forward Cheikh N'diaye has missed 16. Keondre Dew, a 6-foot-8 addition that was hoped to help OSU's front court, has left school following suspensions. It's telling that for much of the last two months, Oregon has started 6-foot-6 Matt Dahlen at power forward — a walk-on who left the team in the offseason but was called back out of need. The Beavers are without a doubt the bottom of the Pac-12, as Colorado finally beat them on Thursday to leave them alone in the Pac-12 without a conference win. Of the six major basketball conferences, only one other team (Missouri) doesn't have a league win yet.

Behind Enemy Lines • The most hopeful point of Oregon State's season would be the return of Tres Tinkle — but if he's not able to come back, The Oregonian writes, maybe he'd be up for a hardship waiver.

Something's Gotta Give • The Utes were dissatisfied on Thursday night with their offensive performance, and you can bet Oregon State would like to have that kind of effect. While the Beavers don't have shot blockers like the Ducks do, they'll attempt to slow Utah down with zone looks, especially off of made baskets. Utah will want to push tempo against the No. 334 team in pace, and score in transition or off of screens from their penetrators. Oregon State doesn't actually have a bad defense in the paint: Opponents are only shooting 46.8 percent on 2-pointers. But Utah is shooting almost 59 percent in the same zone, and they haven't shot under 50 percent on 2-pointers in any game this year.

Oregon State's Edge • There will be a 15-minute break at halftime during which the Beavers can take a breather.

Utah's Edge • How do the Beavers plan on defending Kyle Kuzma exactly? There's many, many areas in which Utah figures to have an edge on paper, but most glaringly might be at power forward where Kuzma, at 6-foot-9, has the chance to be a match-up nightmare. Eubanks figures to be the center, with his hands full guarding David Collette who is Utah's surest-handed scorer. That leaves either 6-foot-11 Gligorije Rakocevic on Kuzma, trying to guard his perimeter threat, or 6-foot-6 Matt Dahlen, who will struggle against his post-ups. If you bring Eubanks to help, Collette will burn you. There's a lot of troubling match-up questions for Oregon State in the front court because of Kuzma's versatility.

Injury Watch • As mentioned above, Tinkle and N'diaye have been out for some time. Tinkle isn't expected to be back this week, while N'diaye's timeline seems less clear-cut. Utah hopes to be fully healthy Saturday after David Collette returned Thursday scoring 10 points.

Watch Out For • Can Utah control its turnovers? Passing was an issue against the Ducks, and the Utes ended up feeling like they over-passed at times: When Lorenzo Bonam or Devon Daniels were at the rim, they would kick out leading to a turnover. The Utes ended up with 15 turnovers against Oregon, tying their high in conference play. The Utes will try to play more more assertively and finish possessions rather than coughing them up. Turnover-prone OSU is a good opponent to allow the Utes to bounce back in this category.

Twitter: @kylegoon






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