"It's just a huge win for the program," Loveridge said. "The atmosphere, the fans. Since I've been coming here since middle school, we haven't had this kind of support. It's a great win for the program and it shows that Utah basketball is back. The program is headed in the right direction."
A nonconference schedule which was ridiculed as one of the weakest in the country seems almost forgotten now. For three seasons, Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak's searched for a program-defining victory. He may have it now. Yes, Utah defeated a nationally ranked Oregon team last season. Yes, the Utes have played the likes of Arizona and UCLA tough. But nothing is like beating a hated rival, and before Saturday night Utah hadn't gotten a win over the Cougars in seven tries.
"I got choked up looking at the student section," Krystkowiak said. "It was something I've dreamed about since seeing what we do at football. They were the heartbeat. When you have a crowd like that, it just gives you something."
Now that they have the signature victory, the challenge for Krystkowiak's team is to remain hungry, stay the hunter. The Utes will face Texas State on Thursday and St. Katherine next week. Barring a collapse, Utah will enter conference play with an 11-1 record.
Slowly, the identity of the Utes is coming into focus. They still play the smothering defense that Krystkowiak was known for. But they score much more, thanks to Loveridge and Delon Wright. Coming into the season, play at center was a big question. But the contributions of people like Dallin Bachynski and Jeremy Olsen have provided answers.
More importantly, Wright and Loveridge can compete with almost anyone in the Pac-12. As a result, the Utes have a chance to do damage once the conference season begins on Jan. 2 against Oregon.
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Texas State at Utah
P Thursday, 7 p.m.
TV • Pac-12 Networks