No. 17 Utah Utes (23-7, 13-5) vs.
Date: Thursday, March 12
Tipoff: 8:40 p.m. PT
Location: Las Vegas, Nev.
Arena: MGM Grand Garden Arena
Play-by-Play: Dave Pasch
Analyst: Bill Walton
Utah Sports Radio Network
Play-by-Play: Bill Riley
Analyst: Jimmy Soto
For up-to-date information including live stats, game notes, media guides, ticketing and more, visit www.UtahUtes.com
Utah Fast Breaks
• Utah is 3-3 all-time at the Pac-12 Tournament with a semifinal appearance at the 2012-13 event. The Utes are seeded 3rd after being slotted 8th, 10th and 11th the three previous seasons.
• Utah has the most wins of any team in the nation by 20 or more points (14) and they are fourth nationally in scoring margin (+16.3).
• Delon Wright has been named as a finalist for the Wooden, Cousy and Naismith Awards. He is on pace to become just the second Ute to amass 1,000 points, 375 rebounds, 350 assists, 150 steals and 70 blocks in a career (Josh Grant)
• Utah is holding its opponents to 57.4 points per game while racking up seven road wins – numbers not achieved by the team since the 1998-99 season
• Utah has now been ranked 17 weeks in a row by the Associated Press, the most since the 1997-1998 Final Four season
Last Time Out
Nigel Williams-Goss scored 28 points, including a deep 3-pointer with 1:08 remaining as the shot clock was about to expire, and Washington rallied to stun the Utes on Saturday, 77-68.
Utah lost for the third time in five games as Delon Wright led the way with 21 points. Jakob Poeltl had 18 points, but was held to three in the second half. Poeltl was 7 of 7 from the field in the first half but was taken out of the game by Washington in the final 20 minutes.
Clamping Down on “D”
A big reason for Utah’s improvement last season was the defensive effort. The Utes ranked second among Pac-12 teams in defensive points per possession. Utah also excelled in guarding the 3-point line, limiting opponents to a league low 30.8 percent from beyond the arc.
This year, Utah currently ranks 10th in scoring defense (56.6 ppg) and seventh in field-goal percentage defense (38.0%). It is also fourth in the nation at defending 2-point shots (40.6%).
Utah was one of the most efficient teams offensively last season, converting 48.8 percent of its field-goal tries. The Utes won 15 games by double figures and finished the season ranked 15th in scoring margin, beating opponents by an average of 10.8 points.
Utah is 21st in the nation on 2-pointers (53.3%), 11th in true shooting percentage (59.4%) and ninth in points per shot (1.2)
Delon Wright was Utah’s first All-Pac-12 performer after a breakthrough campaign. The guard was also named to the All-Defensive Team after finishing 10th in the nation in steals per game.
His 82 steals were second only to Andre Miller’s single-season mark of 84 and also had one of the
best single-season assist marks with 174 (5.3 per game). He currently needs 14 steals to catch Pace Mannion (1979-83) for third all-time at Utah and he ranks second in the Pac-12 with 2.1 per game.
This year, Wright is second in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio and ranks second in assists (5.3). He also sits second in the conference in free-throw percentage (.913) and is among the league leaders in field-goal percentage (7th) and scoring (12th).
Last season, he led the league in minutes played and ranked among the Pac-12’s top 10 in field goal percentage (3rd), assist/turnover ratio (5th), blocks (6th) and scoring (10th).
In the off-season, Wright was one of 30 collegiate players nationwide invited to take part in the LeBron James Skills Academy. He was also named the 2014 Collegiate Athlete of the Year for the state of Utah.
Taylor Trending Upward
Brandon Taylor now ranks sixth all-time at Utah with 165 3-pointers during his career. He is 20 shy of Phil Dixon (1989-94) for fifth place.
His accuracy also has him among the Utah greats as he is 10th all-time with a 39.5 3-point percentage. So far this year, he is third among all Pac-12 players, shooting 45.7 percent from beyond the arc and leads the league with an average of 2.7 3-pointers made per game.
Taylor is also an astute point guard, finishing sixth in the conference in assist/turnover ratio last season. This year he ranks third in the league in that category (2.5) and ranks eighth in the league in assists with 3.8 per game
Taylor also ranks among the league leaders in steals (1.2 – 12th) and is the Ute representative on this year’s NABC Good Works Team.
Loveridge Making Leap
Jordan Loveridge is currently ninth among current Pac-12 players in career scoring, second among juniors. He is also fifth in rebounding, third among juniors.
Last season, Loveridge ranked 10th in the Pac-12 in rebounding (7.0) and 12th in scoring (14.7), while racking up six double-doubles. He is currently 22nd all-time in scoring average at Utah (13.4 ppg).
After missing seven games to injury during the non-conference schedule, Loveridge returned to the starting lineup and leads the league in 3-point field goal percentage. He also registered his first double-double and 11th of his career in the win over Colorado
Poeltl Putting Up Big Numbers
Jakob Poeltl has burst on to the scene this season for the Utes. Defensively, he is having an impact, ranking second in the Pac-12 in blocks and eighth in rebounding.
Poeltl recently set the single-season mark for a freshman with his 46th blocked shot and he has two games where he has denied five shots or more
Poeltl could also very well set the mark for field goal percentage (58.8) by a freshman. In fact, only two other players in Utah history have averaged over 8.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and blocked 40 shots as a freshman; Andrew Bogut and Keith Van Horn.
Balanced Ute Attack
One of the goals of the early season for Coach Krystkowiak was to get more playing time for some of his younger players. So far, this plan seems to be working.
The Utes have the best scoring margin in the league despite only having two players among the top 30 in scoring and none in the top 10. Also, after seeing his starters rack up a ton of time on the court last season, Utah has no player among the top 10 in minutes played.
Utah Success in Sin City
Utah has captured three tournament championships in Sin City. The Utes won the 1997 WAC title, as well as the `99 and `09 MWC titles at the Thomas & Mack Center. They are 16-11 all-time in 14 visits to Vegas.
The Runnin’ Utes have captured five conference tournament championships, all since 1995. Utah won Western Athletic Conference titles in `95 and `97 before capturing Mountain West Conference titles in `99, `04, and `09.
Kuzma, a four-star commit was ranked by Scout.com as one of the best power forward recruits in the country. He has led the team in scoring twice, including a 19-point performance vs. UC Riverside.
Chapman, a local product, was ranked as high as No. 12 in the class of 2014 by ESPN. He scored a season-high 22 points in the win over South Dakota State.
Wright was named the Idaho Gatorade Player of the Year and MVP of the state title game. He has two games with five or more dimes, including an 8-assist performance vs. UC Riverside
Reyes, a transfer from St. Mary’s (CA) and Citrus College, was named the Western State Conference MVP. He is currently third on the team in rebounding and grabbed a season-high 10 boards at UNLV.
The Utes have a long and outstanding history of basketball excellence. Utah is among the top 15 all-time in Division 1 for wins and winning
percentage while also ranking fifth with 32 conference championships.
Utah ranks well when compared with its other Pac-12 comrades. The Utes are third among schools in the Conference of Champions when it comes to NCAA Tournament bids and is one of six schools in the league to have won a national championship.
Vranes Inducted to Pac-12 Hall of Honor
The Pac-12 Conference will induct University of Utah great Danny Vranes, as well as 11 other former student-athletes, into the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Hall of Honor on Saturday, March 14, during a ceremony prior to the championship game.
One of just seven players to have his number retired by the Utes, Vranes was an All-American in 1981 as well as a four-time All-Western Athletic Conference honoree and a member of Utah’s All-Century Team.
He led the Utes to three NCAA Tournament appearances, including two Sweet 16s, in his tenure in Salt Lake City, going 86-31 overall and 44-12 in conference games. The Utes also won a WAC title his senior year and ended the season ranked 14th in the nation.
Vranes also played in the 1979 Pan American Games in San Juan, where he helped the United States win the gold medal.
After college, Vranes was selected as the No. 5 overall pick in the 1981 NBA Draft by the Seattle Supersonics. He would go on to play seven seasons and was named to the All-Defensive Team in 1985. Vranes also played four years overseas in Greece and Italy.