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January 19, 2014

Utes beat Bruins

The Utah basketball team took a big step forward for the program Saturday afternoon in a packed Jon M. Huntsman Center. Utah beat the #25 ranked UCLA Bruins 74-69 in the presence of '90's Runnin' Ute legends and a very ruckus home crowd; very reminiscent of the days of old at the JMHC.

Head Coach Larry Krystkowiak could not have been more pleased with his team's perseverance and determination against UCLA. "A lot of it feels really rewarding," Krystkowiak said. "It was spooky how it got down to the end of the game but we had a lot unforced errors and they came at us with length. That produced a problem. It was not a pretty ending but it's a "W". One over a top 25 team. I'd say it's been a pretty good week."

This game was perhaps one of the best team efforts this season for the Utes where everyone who played made a major contribution to the win. Jordan Loveridge led the pack in scoring with 17 total points, four assists and one steal. Delon Wright contributed 12 points, six assists, two blocks and three steals. Brandon Taylor also added 12 points for the Utes as well as four assists, and a steal.

Taylor said the team's strategy for taking on UCLA was pretty simple, "We communicated and withstood their runs. We just tried to be defensively sound," he said.

One of the brightest spots of the game though came in true freshman Kenneth Ogbe's play. While he hasn't played much this season and has struggled at the line Ogbe showed he can be consistent and come through in crunch time for his teammates. Ogbe had 12 points on the night including going 2 of 2 in free throws to help seal the win for Utah at the end.

Krystkowiak could not have been prouder of Ogbe saying, "The young man reminds me of Dakarai and Brandon from last year," he said. "It's hard to put freshmen in a situation like this. He's improved so much defensively and has been doing so well in practice. He's a great example of a kid who got his chance and made the most of it. He stepped up and made some crucial free throws and I'm happy he could play a part in this."

Although this was a huge victory for a program that is always used to be "close" there is still a lot of hard work and improvement ahead for the Utes. However, Krystkowiak feels this may have been the jump start his team needs to help get over some of those last humps saying, "I have a lot of respect for Coach Alford and his team but this is why, if you're a player, you come to the Pac-12," Krystkowiak continued. "You want to play against the best teams. We have had tough times and maybe a win like this can move us to the other end of the spectrum. We feel good about how we played today."

The road is still long and winding for this young team rebuilding but maybe just maybe they too will be honored someday like the great '90's teams in attendance Saturday afternoon. "There's an awful lot of history at this place. It's a basketball-proud state," said Krystkowiak. "They laid the foundation and the past is important to understand. We want people who wear the "U" and wore the "U" to be proud. This is a great place to be and a great building to have a game in."


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