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March 8, 2013

Utes find redemption against Beavers

Utah lost its first contest to Oregon State 82-64 last month in Corvallis, and Thursday night, it got even with a 72-61 win over the visiting Beavers. With the win, Utah improved to 12-17, 4-13 with one home game remaining.

Thursday's win is representative of many different things for the rebuilding Utah program.vWith its twelfth win of the season, Utah has now doubled last season's win total, and the timely victory over Oregon State is it's fourth conference win of the season, one more than last season's three.

Utah also broke a three-way tie with the win and locks up the Pac-12's No.l0 seed in the upcoming tournament in Las Vegas after heading into Thursday's contest sitting at No. 11. If that weren't enough, senior center [db]Jason Washburn[/db] reached the 1,000 point scoring threshold to become the 35th player in Utah history to achieve it.

"The way the crowd just went off, with all the signs and everything, I couldn't help but crack a smile. I'm in the company with some of the greatest names in Utah history, and it's a real humbling thing to be honest, " an emotional Washburn described. "What makes it sweeter is that it came on a night for the Utah Basketball program. I've got no words to really describe it to you guys."

Washburn finished his big night with 15 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and one steal, and freshman [db]Jordan Loveridge[/db], who had 17 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block. Combined, the two accounted for 44 percent of Utah's scoring and 51 percent of Utah's rebounding.

Despite big efforts from the bigs, Utah's backcourt also contributed in a big way against Oregon State, as senior guard [db]Jarred DuBois/db] had perhaps his best all around game as a Ute with 15 points, six assists and four rebounds and [db]Brandon Taylor[/db] contributed 12 points on 4-6 three point shooting, and also dished out three assists.

Utah's offensive effort was perhaps the best it has been all season, with good scoring balance, a workable balance of inside and outside scoring and good ball movement. Utah had 15 assists on the night, which isn't its season high, but proved to be a solid number.

The biggest key for the Utah game plan Thursday was to curb Oregon States rebounding margin and second chance points, both of which dismantled Utah's chances last time around. In that game, OSU out-rebounded Utah 41-33 and scored 13 second-chance points on the Utes, compiling most of the Beavers' 18 point win margin.

Thursday night, Utah out-rebounded Oregon State 39-29, and dominated with 13 second chance points to Oregon State's six.

"I honestly thought that whoever won the rebound game tonight would win the game, so to be plus ten against a really good rebounding team was important to us," Krystkowiak said.

Turnovers also played a big part in the Utes' loss to Oregon State, as Utah committed 11 points which equated to 15 Oregon State turnovers.

Utah turned the tables on Oregon State in this category as well, committing the same 11 turnovers, but limiting the Beavers to just five points as a result of them. Meanwhile, Utah converted 15 Oregon State turnovers into 21 points, and allowing the Utes to play with a lead through most of the game.

"I think we were pretty darn aggressive, and we had some guys down in stances, and we had some guys that we tried to stay close to, and others that we kept some distance and had kind of a pack mentality," explained Krystkowiak. "I think we had some deflections that led to some things."

Utah tallied nine steals and six blocks on the night, representing an all-around performance on both sides of the game, and in all aspects; perhaps the first time all season the Utes could make that claim.

"It's not often that we have nine steals," Krystkowiak admitted. "It was just high energy, we also had six blocked shots when they got around the rim. Defensively, we were locked in."

The key for the Utes from the start was energy, in particular on defense and around the boards, both of which have been lacking for them all season. While Utah has played well in stretches, it had yet to put together a complete game, which included full effort on both ends of the floor for an entire 40 minutes.

"I thought the rebounding focus and our defensive focus actually led to making the offense easier," Krystkowiak observed. "That's what we've preached here for a little while, that if you play the game the right way, and all you're thinking about is your effort and your rebounding, sure enough the offense starts clicking."

The best evidence of Utah's success is the fact that Oregon State held just one lead, a one point margin at the 19:02 mark in the first half. From that point on, Utah never looked back, and had as much as a 19 point lead at the 5:46 point in the second half.

Utah looks to complete its regular season schedule Saturday when it plays host to Oregon and will continue to the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas on March 13, where it will likely be the No. 10 seed.


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