Utes visit Beasley

WSU won last meeting in Salt Lake City, 77-61



WSU guard Tyrell Roberts (2) attempts to juke California guard Jordan Shepherd (31) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 15, in Beasley Coliseum.

AARIK LONG, Evergreen reporter

The WSU men’s basketball team (10-7, 3-3) returns to action on Wednesday against the Utah Utes (8-12, 1-9) for the second of two meetings between the squads this season.

The two teams met on Jan. 8 in Salt Lake City, where the Cougs earned their first victory at Utah in program history. Utah leads the all-time series 17-4.

The Utes are currently going through a rebuilding period. Last season, the program posted their first losing record since 2012-13, which was just their second season in the Pac-12.

Utah head coach Craig Smith is in his first season with the Utes after three seasons with Utah State. During his time coaching less than 100 miles down the road, he led the Aggies to a 74-24 record.

The struggles this season are coming on both ends of the court for Utah. In Pac-12 play, the Utes rank among the bottom three in both points scored and allowed. They have, however, shot the three-ball pretty well in those games, sitting with the farthest shot hit per game in the conference. 

This plays into the Cougars’ hands. WSU is holding conference opponents to a 23.7% three-point rate this season, the best in the Pac-12. 

The Cougs also lead the Pac-12 in points allowed per game at a mere 59.2 points. Offensively, there have been some struggles for the Cougs, but defensively, they are among the best teams in the conference. 

One of the best defensive teams facing one of the worst offensive teams sounds like a recipe for another double-digit victory for WSU over Utah this season.

But there is one thing that could hold up the Cougs: fouls.

WSU currently ranks fifth in fouls per conference game. That is about the middle of the road in the Pac-12. Utah is a little better at drawing fouls but nothing drastic, sitting at fourth in conference games. 

The Utes capitalize on these fouls. In conference games, the Utes are shooting 82.9% from the line, the best in the conference. Overall this season, Utah is shooting 80.3% from the charity stripe, a number that sits among the elite programs in the country as the third-best free throw shooting percentage this season.

Pac-12 refs can always be a toss-up in games, so this game could honestly go either way, depending on how fouls are called.

Expect a low-scoring game either way. The game will probably stay in the 60-point range for the Cougars, and have the Utes somewhere in the 50s. 

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday in Beasley Coliseum. For those who can not make it to the game, it will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network.