Joe Burton had big games against Utah in both games last year, both of which were Oregon St. wins. The Beavers could use another big night from "Big Joe" tonight. - (AP photo by Steve Wilson)
Utah (10-11, 2-7) at Oregon St. (11-11, 1-8) / Gill Coliseum / 7 PM PST / Pac-12 Channel / KEJO 1240 AM / KEX 1190 AM
Oregon St. returns home to face the still new "intermountain" teams in the Pac-12, beginning with Utah, to start the second half of the conference campaign.
It's another "odd-night" game, being played on a Wednesday, and on football National Letter Of Intent day no less, but at least its at a reasonable hour of the evening.
It's also a battle for last place in the Pac, with the Beavers in last place, and the Utes tied with Washington St. for 10th, but effectively in 11th, having lost their only head to head meeting of the season with the Cougars.
Utah blew 21 points worth of a 22 point second half lead over Colorado Saturday, but held on to pull out a 58-55 win that allowed them to escape the cellar in the Pac-12. The win makes the Utes a .500 team over their last 4 games, after losing their first 5 Pac-12 games.
The Utes got a 13 point, 11 rebound effort from Jason Washburn, their 6'10" senior center. Utah needed the production, being without 6'6" freshman forward Jordan Loveridge, their season long leading scorer and rebounder, who was out with a knee injury. Loveridge's status for tonight's game is likely a pre-game warmup decision.
Additionally, Utes coach LarryKrystkowiak juggled his rotation in other ways beginning with the Colorado game, placing Brandon Taylor at point guard, moving Glen Dean off the ball, and making Jarred DuBois the first man off the bench.
Oregon St. also made a lineup change for the Stanford game, inserting Challe Barton in place of Jarmal Reid. It worked initially, as the Beavers bolted to an 8-0 lead. The Cardinal came charging back, hitting 5 consecutive 3 pointers early, and a 14-0 opened a 26-17 Stanford lead before Oregon St. was able to scramble back within 2 by halftime.
A tremendously competitive second half that saw 9 lead changes in 10 scores eventually got away from the Beavers when the Cardinal connected on more 3 pointers (Stanford ultimately made 14 of 25 from behind the arc, 56%), and then, with Oregon St. having to foul to extend the game, the Cardinal went 8 of 8 at the free throw line in the last minute, pulling away to an 81-73 win.
Roberto Nelson led Oregon St., with 20 points, capping a 46 point weekend that wasn't rewarded with a win in either game. Joe Burton added a 17 point, 10 rebound double double, and has been playing the best ball of his career of late.
None the less, the Beavers are on a 3 game losing streak, by a total of 14 points, which has left them in last place in the conference.
Last year, Oregon St. swept Utah in the Ute's initial campaign in the Pac-12, winning 76-58 in Salt Lake City, and following up with a 77-67 victory in the rematch in Corvallis that ensured just the second winning season in 22 years for the Beavers.
Jared Cunningham led Oregon St. in the first win, with 20 points, but the Beavers also got a good front court effort, led by Devon Collier's 14. Burton had a solid all around night as well, playing more minutes than anyone but Cunningham, a notable effort at elevation in Salt Lake City, and finishing with 8 points, 6 steals, 5 assists, and a game high 11 rebounds.
Cunningham was again the scoring leader in the second game, with 17 points, but again, it was Collier and Burton who had big nights to propel the Beavers to the win. Collier had 10 points, and Burton added 13 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals.
Eric Moreland also had a big game at the Utes' expense, with 13 rebounds, 9 points, 3 blocked shots, and 3 assists.
It was Oregon St.'s first win ever over the Utes in Salt Lake City, as Utah had won all 9 non-conference meetings over the years on their own floor. The Beavers do hold a 5-0 edge in games at Gill Coliseum, and 8-1 in Corvallis (the infrequent series goes way back), while both neutral court contests have been won by the Utes.
A big night from the front-court trio again would be a big help to Oregon St. in their efforts to escape last place in the Pac-12.