#9 Utah (20-4, 10-2) at Oregon St. (16-9, 7-6) / Gill Coliseum / 8 PM PST / Pac-12 Channel / KEJO 1240 AM / KEX 1190 AM
9th ranked Utah comes to Corvallis tonight, looking to break up Oregon St.'s streak of 14 wins at home in Gill Coliseum, aka Fort Wayne, where the Beavers are still unbeaten under Coach/General Wayne Tinkle.
In both games, the Utes used balance and depth, getting double digit scoring from 4 players in each game, but the only one with double figures in both games was conference Player of the Year candidate Delon Wright.
But defense, particularly in the interior was the story. Against the Cardinal, the story was the Ute's ability to hold Chason Randle to 10 points. The Bears got 47 points from Tyrone Wallace and Jabari Byrd, but only 14 from the rest of their roster.
The Beavers were once again battered about like a tether ball on last week's road trip to LA, losing 75-59 at UCLA Wednesday night, and then fared little better on Saturday, falling 68-55 to USC. In both games, Gary Payton II put on a show, with 35 points, 13 rebounds, 8 steals, and 6 assists on the trip, but the front-court was of little help. Olaf Schaftenaar was shut out by the Bruins, and only recorded 4 points against the Trojans. Jarmal Reid fouled out of the USC game with still over 12 minutes to go.
The real problem though was the normally stout Beaver defense was sliced up, as the Bruins shot over 50% for much of the game, and finished above 50% from 3 point range, and the Trojans shot above 45%, and within a fraction of that from beyond the arc.
Opponents' shooting percentage has emerged as the stat to watch in Oregon St. games. If the Beavers hold an opponent under 40% from the field, they almost always win. If they don't, they almost always lose. There's been only 2 exceptions this season, one on each side of the ledger.
But Oregon St. bounced back from a similar pair of setbacks in Arizona, defeating both Washington schools to continue to protect Fort Wayne.
The Utes are battling Arizona for the Pac-12 regular season championship, and the top seed in the conference tournament in Las Vegas. The Beavers are 3 1/2 games back of the Utes and 'Cats, tied for 5th with Stanford, and right in the midst of the battle for seeding, where 8 teams entered this week's schedule within 3 games of each other, with 3rd thru 10th place a possibility for each of them. Oregon took the first step forward out of the logjam last night, with a 73-60 win over Colorado, who will be at Gill Saturday night, while Arizona St. moved upward in the mass, with a 68-66 home win over UCLA, whom the Beavers can now catch with an upset win of their own tonight.
Being still relatively new to the Pac-12, the Utes have only met the Beavers in hoops 24 times, and hold a 14-10 edge overall. The visitor has only ever won twice though, with one road win for each team. That stat bodes better for the Beavers.
It will be interesting to see if Oregon St. can continue to cause opponents to have their poorest shooting performances of the season, especially in the first half, when they encounter the Beavers, and especially at Gill. It will be the key to watch as the game gets going, as Utah leads the conference in wins by 20 or more points. A all of the Utes' conference wins have been by double digit margins, and the average margin of victory in their 10 wins conference wins is 22.8.
The experts have split the difference, making the Utes a 7.5 point favorite.
An Oregon St. win would assure the Beavers a winning season overall, and would also be the first time they have defeated 2 top 10 teams in the same season in 39 years.