Utah Basketball Hoping To Take Advantage Of ‘Clean Slate’ Against Washington In Pac-12 Tournament

Mar 8, 2022, 9:45 PM
Craig Smith - Utah Utes vs. USC...
Craig Smith head coach of the Utah Utes reacts to an officials call the USC Trojans during the second half of their game January 22, 2022 at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah men’s basketball team has a clean slate as they head down to Las Vegas to face the Washington Huskies in the Pac-12 Tournament.

Utah basketball received the 11-seed in the Pac-12 Tournament and will face 6-seed Washington on Wednesday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

This is the third time that Utah and Washington will square off in the Pac-12 Tournament. The first time was in 2014 when the Utes picked up a 67-61 first round win. Delon Wright dropped 15 points and seven rebounds in that game, while Jordan Loveridge added 13 points.

The second time was last season when Utah beat the Huskies 98-95 in the first round. Timmy Allen recorded a double-double with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Alfonso Plummer poured in 21 points, while Branden Carlson added 13 points.

Craig Smith’s Three Keys To Victory

On Tuesday night, Utah head coach Craig Smith talked to KSL Sports and gave three keys to a Runnin’ Utes victory.

#1 Take Care Of The Ball

“We have to value the ball,” Smith said. “And in part of it, that’s been an issue at times with us. But secondly, that’s what they do, they create turnovers. There’s going to be some turnovers, we got to avoid the catastrophic ones where we just throw it right to them and it’s a dunk the other way. So we got to be good at moving without the ball, finding windows. And again, zones (defense), especially using your shot fakes and your pass fakes to get them out of position because they’re jumping those lanes, and they’re quick to the ball and athletic.”

#2 Guard The Ball

“They play a lot of iso basketball, they have the lowest number of assists in the Pac-12,” Smith stated. “So that tells you, they’ll do some false motion and then it’s put their head down and drive it and we got to be able to guard the ball and have great position defense.”

#3 Transition Defense

“Because of their speed, and athleticism, we got to make them earn it in the half court for us,” Smith said. “So really, it’s gonna come down to those sorts of things. And then I was gonna say we have to handle their pressure, but that’s a big part of the turnover piece.”

Utah Basketball vs. Washington – By The Numbers

Washington was predicted to finish 11th in the Pac-12 preseason media poll. They ended the regular season in sixth place. Earlier this season, UW lost to Utah Valley and Arizona, before beating Utah. Then they lost to Colorado before rattling off three straight wins. Washington did have a stretch of four games where they lost, falling to Arizona, USC, UCLA and Washington State.

The Huskies finished the season strong with a home sweep over the Oregon schools. Utah and Washington met for the first time this season on January 6 at the Huntsman Center. Washington pulled out the 74-68 win after a big second half. Daejon Davis led the way with 16 points, while Terrell Brown Jr. and Cole Bajema each had 15 points. For Utah, Lazar Stefanovic, Branden Carlson and Gabe Madsen each had 12 points.

Just 23 days later, Utah was up in Seattle to battle the Huskies. In one of the more entertaining games of the season, the Utes and Huskies went to double overtime with UW prevailing with a 77-73 win. Carlson dropped 18 points to lead the Runnin’ Utes.

Brown Jr. led the Huskies with a game-high 30 points.

This season, Brown is the leading scorer for UW with 21.7 points per game. Emmitt Matthews is the only other Washington player to average double figures at 11.7 per game. Nate Roberts is their leading rebounder with 7.4 per contest. Brown is far and away the leading assist man with 126 dimes. The second-most is Daejon Davis with 69.

Tip-off between the Utes and Huskies will be at 9:30 p.m. MT on Wednesday, March 9 on the Pac-12 Networks.

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for KSLSports.com, Co-Host of Faith, Family and Football podcast with Clark Phillips III and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASports.

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Utah Basketball Hoping To Take Advantage Of ‘Clean Slate’ Against Washington In Pac-12 Tournament