Utah looks to rediscover its shooting touch when the Utes return to Salt Lake City to host Washington State on Thursday night.
The Utes (12-7, 5-3 Pac-12) have lost three straight contests since getting off to a hot start in Pac-12 play. Utah’s shooting percentage from the field steadily declined in earlier setbacks to Oregon and UCLA before bottoming out against Southern California on Saturday.
The Utes made just eight baskets and shot 25 percent from the field overall during the second half of their 71-56 loss to the Trojans. Utah scored just two points over the final 5 1/2 minutes, allowing USC to pull away down the stretch.
An inability to generate offense offset another strong performance from Branden Carlson, who finished with 21 points, nine rebounds, and three blocks in his return from a one-game absence due to illness.
Utah appears to have hit a wall after looking like contenders for an NCAA Tournament bid early. But the Utes are confident they can find an offensive spark and resume their winning ways.
“We just gotta keep climbing and keep growing and keep getting better, and keep maturing,” Utah coach Craig Smith said. “Sometimes it is a race to maturity, and we gotta keep maturing and growing and keep growing as a team, and certainly individually that will help our team.”
Washington State owns the type of momentum that the Utes are craving. The Cougars (9-10, 4-4) have now rattled off three straight victories after sweeping California and Stanford at home last weekend.
Getting that third straight victory wasn’t easy, however.
Washington State survived a nail-biter against Stanford, edging the Cardinal 60-59 behind a season-high 17 points from Andrej Jakimovski. DJ Rodman added 15. The duo combined for nine 3-pointers, with Jakimovski’s five outside baskets marking a personal season best.
“They bailed us out, big time,” Washington State coach Kyle Smith said. “It’s really rewarding to see Andrej and Rodman really step up and get us a (win). That’s what older guys do, they win at home.”
Utah edged Washington State 67-65 in overtime when the teams met in Pullman, Wash., on Dec. 4.
–Field Level Media