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Utah Utes Game Preview and How to Watch

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Can Washington actually win back-to-back games?

NCAA Basketball: Washington at Utah Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

The Essentials

Date: Sunday, 1/24/21

Tip-Off Time: 1:00 pm PT

TV: ESPNU

Radio: KJR 950/KVI 570

Streaming: Espn.com/watch

Location: Seattle, WA

Betting line: Washington +5

Utah Utes 2020-21 Statistics:

Record: 6-6 (3-5)

Points For per Game: 69.1 ppg (212th)

Points Against per Game: 65.3 ppg (58th)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 107.8 (74th)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 95.9 (70th)

Strength of Schedule: 73rd

Utah Key Players:

F- Timmy Allen, Jr. 6’6, 204: 16.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.3 apg, 45.9% FG, 27.3% 3pt, 72.9% FT

If Allen could reliably hit an outside shot he would be a potential All-American. As it is he’s still a very good scorer who plays more bully ball than you would expect for someone at his size. He’s a perfect option in that high post area with his passing abilities and size. In the first game this year he had 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists.

F- Mikael Jantunen, So. 6’8, 220: 9.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.0 apg, 63.9% FG, 37.5% 3pt, 87.5% FT

Jantunen is an efficiency monster who led the conference in 2pt field goal percentage during Pac-12 play last year and is in first again this year. Expect him to spend plenty of time lurking on the baseline waiting for the Husky center to commit and then use a variety of cuts and floaters to score in the paint. In the first game this year he had 10 points on 5/6 shooting plus 5 offensive rebounds.

G- Rylan Jones, So. 6’0, 175: 5.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 4.6 apg, 36.5% FG, 31.4% 3pt, 73.3% FT

Jones was one of the more underrated freshmen in the conference last season but his shot has failed him so far this year. Despite some shooting struggles he’s still a very good passer and boasts a nearly 3/1 assist to turnover ratio. In the first game this year he had 6 points on 2/3 3-pt shooting plus 5 assists against 3 turnovers.

G- Alfonso Plummer, Sr. 6’1, 175: 12.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.1 apg, 44.3% FG, 42.0% 3pt, 75.0% FT

Plummer absolutely has a “shooters gotta shoot” mindset and leads in Utah in % of shots taken when on the floor. His efficiency is down a little bit since his minutes have doubled since last year but he’s possibly Utah’s best all-around scorer as a deadly shooter who can still finish at the rim. In the first game this year he had 21 points on 8/17 shooting, 0 rebounds, 0 assists, and 4 steals.

G- Pelle Larsson, Fr. 6’5, 215: 7.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.7 apg, 48.3% FG, 52.6% 3pt, 92.6% FT

The Swedish freshman guard has come in and instantly been one of the best shooters in the conference. He’s only taking about 1.5 3s and 2 FTs per game so it isn’t high volume but his efficiency is through the roof. However he’s averaging over 2 turnovers per game so when he doesn’t get a shot up he has struggled on that end of the floor. In the first game this year (his career debut) he had 8 points and 7 assists. That’s still his career high in assists.

F- Riley Battin, Jr. 6’9, 234: 5.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.4 apg, 32.4% FG, 22.2% 3pt, 86.4% FT

Battin is a solid stretch 4 option for Utah who’s a better ball handler than you’d expect for someone who’s his height. He’s another player who could really cause some issues for the Huskies if they set him up at the free throw line. His shooting from the field has tanked this season but his turnovers have been cut by more than half so he’s playing a much different role in the Utah offense. In the first game this season he had 6 points and 5 rebounds.

C- Branden Carlson, So. 7’0, 218: 7.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.8 bpg, 51.4% FG, 33.3% 3pt, 45.0% FT

Carlson is the only true rim protector that the Utes have so getting him foul trouble early could really open up scoring opportunities against Utah. He’s a really poor offensive rebounder for a 7-footer which is great news for UW considering their struggles in that area. In the first game this season he had 9 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 blocks.

Utah 2020-21 Shot Chart

Synergy Sports

The Outlook

Washington is coming off of consecutive solid efforts against very good teams including their first Pac-12 win of the season on Wednesday night. Now we’ll see if that newfound confidence can carry over in what suddenly looks like a potentially winnable game.

Back in early December the Huskies kept the game competitive for about 10 minutes but Utah went on runs of 13-2, 15-2, and 18-0 to eventually open up a 20 point lead and coast to the end comfortably. RaeQuan Battle, who is now out of the rotation, played 21 minutes and went 1/8 from 3 in that game while Marcus Tsohonis who is coming off a career high 27 points played just 6 minutes and missed both shot attempts. The Washington offense is playing an an infinitely higher level than they were back then.

Looking back at the box score from the first game and the two teams’ numbers didn’t look that dissimilar considering the score. Utah shot just 4% on 2-pointers in a similar number of attempts and made just 1 additional 3-pointer (though on fewer 8 attempts). Washington was only outrebounded by 1 which has been their biggest weakness this season and fairly close in turnovers. The game ultimately came down to free throw attempts where Utah was +12. Utah loves to use big to big passing to get open looks near the rim and Washington has to do a better job this time around of not being a second late in their rotation and giving the Utes free looks at the line.

The even rebounding from December wasn’t exactly a fluke either. Utah has been a below average rebounding team on both ends of the court this season. They’re not as bad as Washington but it’s not unreasonable to think that the Dawgs hold their own in that regard once again. If that’s the case then the game could easily come down to who has a better night shooting the ball.

Given how the Huskies have played lately that’s suddenly not a bad thing. In Washington’s last 5 games here are some of the 3-pt shooting numbers: Stevenson 51.6%, Tsohonis 47.1%, Bey 42.9%, and Wright 35.3%. Meanwhile, Quade Green who is ostensibly the team’s best shooter has made just 24% of his 3-pt shots in that time. Except for maybe Bey and Wright those numbers aren’t sustainable over the long term but if the rest of that foursome continue to shoot in the 35-40% range and Quade Green rediscovers his stroke then they could easily win a shootout yet again.

I do think that the Huskies have turned a bit of a corner. But I don’t know that it’s realistic to think that they’re going to suddenly pull off a sweep this week even if it’s at home and this is a pretty average Utah squad. However, it looks like it should be competitive and given where the Dawgs were just a couple weeks ago that’s worth something.

Prediction

Washington Huskies- 73, Utah Utes- 78

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