Craig Smith Proud Of Utah’s Resolve In Face Of Injury Unknowns

Jan 19, 2024, 11:20 AM | Updated: 11:37 am

SALT LAKE CITY – The Runnin’ Utes are battling some key injuries and to make matters worse, there is a level of mystery surrounding when those players will be back.

Head coach Craig Smith said in postgame after the Runnin’ Utes impressive 74-47 win over Oregon State that he’s proud of how his team rose to the occasion despite the unknowns.

Unfortunately, Rollie Worster and Lawson Lovering’s availability is still a little under question. The good news however is the Runnin’ Utes have shown the ability to handle the adversity and still be productive.

Craig Smith On How The Runnin’ Utes Handled A ‘Turbulent’ Week

As has been stated many times- injuries are never fun. They are terrible for the athletes, terrible for the coaches, and terrible for the fans.

However, they are also part of the game and there is no avoiding them which is why finding a way to manage through them is so important.

“It’s been a little bit of a- I don’t know what the right word is- maybe a little bit of a turbulent week? We’ve had to do a lot of different things this week with the injuries to Worster and Lawson Lovering,” Smith said in postgame. “I’m really proud of our effort. I thought we really, really competed hard.”

Smith added in the challenges that Oregon State under Wayne Tinkle presents. They change up their defense, play a lot of different guys, and throw a lot of different looks that according to Smith makes it a difficult prep on a good week, let alone a week you’re managing key injuries.

“It’s a big prep,” Smith said. “At the same time, we were trying to prep that and get our guys to be the very best we can and redefining who we are knowing those two guys specifically were not going to play. I’m not only really proud about how we played today- I thought we played how we practiced. I loved how we executed our stuff specifically on both ends of the floor.”

None of that matters however if the guys running things don’t buy in. Smith was effusive with his praise of Deivon Smith, Keba Keita, Cole Bajema, Gabe Madsen, and Branden Carlson for stepping up their games, showing leadership, and creating an environment where the team could be productive together.

“Great team effort,” Smith said. “I really thought we got the ball going. Another game with less than 10 turnovers which is a great number for us. 10 or less is going to be really good, especially the way we play up and down. We have to get better finishing some plays. We missed a lot of chip shots early- got to be able to finish those plays.”

The Utes will have one more opportunity to showcase their growth- likely still without Worster and Lovering on Sunday, January 21 against the Oregon Ducks. Tipoff is 1:00 pm MT and will be televised on ESPN.

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Craig Smith Proud Of Utah’s Resolve In Face Of Injury Unknowns