Editor’s note: This piece was written by Andrew Crowley (@RunninHoops)
The Runnin’ Utes start the back half of their league schedule with a familiar opponent — a team they played against just five games ago, Oregon St. The Utes take on Oregon State on Thursday, January 2 at 9pm MT which will air on Pac-12 Networks.
Since meeting in Salt Lake on Jan. 5, both teams have lost more than they have won, with Utah winning 2-3 and Oregon St. 1-4. However, both teams will go into this game with a win.
Oregon St. is 8-12 on the season and 2-7 in the Pac-12 game. They are 198 in KenPom and 213 in NET making this a Quad 3 game for those who count at home.
The last game
When the two teams last met, the Runnin’ Utes led wire to wire en route to a 79-60 win. It was an even performance for the Runnin’ Utes with four players scoring in double figures. As so often this season, Branden Carlson led Utah with 27 points and 11 rebounds.
Oregon St. was led in the game by freshman Tyler Bilodeau, who scored 11 points in just 16 minutes of play, and Rodrigue Andella became the only other player in double figures to add 10 points from the bench.
Despite not being a great three-point shooting team to go into the game, Oregon St. shot 40% from beyond the arc, allowing them to stay close in the first half and widen the gap to 2 in the second half to close the runnin’ utes put them away forever.
What has changed?
In the five games since losing to the Runnin’ Utes, Oregon St. has had a different top scorer in each competition.
Freshman Jordan Pope is coming off his second-best win of the season, scoring 19 points and dishing out 4 assists against Cal in a win on the road, which helped him win Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors for the second time this season.
Classmate Tyler Bilodeau had a season- and career-high 18 points in a loss to Arizona a few weeks ago. He’s also seen his minutes steadily increase, which means Wayne Tinkle and the Oregon St. coaching staff are starting to trust him.
Sophomore Glenn Taylor Jr. continues to have a solid season for the Beavers, averaging 11.6 PPG and shooting 45% from field and 40% from off the arc.
High ranking big man Rodrigue Andella is likely to be tasked with stopping Branden Carlson. Andella is 6’8, 250 and will do anything to push BC off the block.
San Francisco transfer Dzmitry Ryuny continues to lead the Beavers in rebounding with 4.8 boards per contest and also leads them in steals and blocks.
Through the numbers
Oregon St. currently averages 63.8 PPG offensively and gives up 66.8 PPG on defense. In contrast, the Runnin’ Utes are the nation’s top 30 in goal defenses, posting 77 and 86 home stands against the Washington Schools.
There’s just a 10 rebounds-per-game difference between these two teams, and while that may not seem like a lot, it’s a ravine in the national rankings with Utah at 10 and Oregon St. at 334.
The Beavers have improved their three-point shooting since these two teams last game, up from about 31% to 34%.
While Utah has struggled lately with opponents averaging double-digit offensive rebounds against them, Oregon St. hasn’t been a team good at ripping down offensive boards (only about 7 per game) this season. Even with a 20-point win at Cal, they only had 6.
The Beavers continue to be a good FT shooting team, averaging 74% from the line, good for 77th in the country.
What the metric people say
KenPom gives Utah a 75% chance of leaving Corvallis with a win and forecasts it 68-60 for the Runnin’ Utes.
Haslametrics sees this as a 68-61 win for Runnin’ Utes.
The ESPN Matchup Predictor gives Utah a 79.2% chance of winning.
The line in this game is: Utah -7.5
key to victory
The Runnin’ Utes have lost their last four games at the Gill Coliseum by an average of 15 points per game, and Oregon St. has played well at home (beat Washington, lost to ASU by 5 points).
After a few poor performances in LA, the Runnin’ Utes circled the wagons in practice and ran more set plays on offense. There is a clear recipe for the success of this team and that is especially important on the road. If they follow the formula on Thursday night, they should win. So what is the formula and how do they win in Gil?
- BC early and often – At this point in the season, Branden Carlson has established himself as the clear “head of the snake” for the Runnin’ Utes and as such will be the focal point of defense. Nevertheless, the offensive still has to go through him. He should be in control of most if not all offensive possessions.
- Guard the three – The Runnin’ Utes continue to be an elite defense team at the three-point line, but Oregon St. is coming off a win where they shot 54% from beyond the arc. Utah can’t let her go of the three.
- No hero ball – This one will be important early on. Don’t let this game get you down by dribbling around, ignoring open teammates, and taking bad/contested shots late in the clock.
- Move without the ball – It’s a lot easier to find a guy clipping on the basket when he’s actually clipping on the basket. The Runnin’ Utes often get into trouble when they stand around and aren’t…ready for it? walking around
- Rollie on the street – People are starting to notice that Rollie Worster is a different player home and away. In order for the Runnin’ Utes to keep the momentum going in Corvallis, Rollie needs to bring some of that home magic to the streets. Ideally, that means attacking the rim, driving and dishing, hitting high percentage shots, and making winning plays. Rollie is the straw that stirs the drink. (So does Gabe Madsen, by the way, he needs to take some of his good shooting from the last few games back to Oregon).
- Appreciate the basketball – In the last few games, the Runnin’ Utes have done a much better job tending to the basketball. Against a team like Oregon St., who will be opportunistic to force turnovers and create empty possessions, sticking with basketball will be crucial.
As conference play began, I noticed that there were four non-negotiable games that the Runnin’ Utes had to win in order to be considered for the NCAA tournament. While they currently don’t have enough gains to get them “in”, they don’t have losses to take them “out” either.
You will find a way to get this one.
Andrew Crowley (@RunninHoops) is a guest author on Utezone and host of the The Runnin’ Hoops Podcast. You can find the podcast at Apple, Spotifyor wherever you get a podcast.
Not a subscriber? Join Now for a seven-day free trial and to get access to everything UteZone has to offer, including daily content from the biggest contributors covering Utah athletics and access to the largest and most active community of Ute fans on the web. Do not forget Sign up for our UteZone newsletter. It’s free and a great way to get daily updates on Utah football, basketball and more straight to your inbox. As we on Facebook. Follow us on twitter.