A pair of Pac-12 opponents take the floor out in the Beehive State looking to earn a victory. The Washington State Cougars are on the road as they travel to face the Utah Utes Saturday night. Washington State comes in off a 78-56 shellacking by #23 Colorado on the road Thursday night in their last game. Utah rallied to shock Washington 67-66 at home Thursday night in their previous contest. The Utes own a commanding 24-3 edge in the all-time series and have won the last 11 meetings, including a 92-79 road win in the last matchup on February 23, 2019.
Washington State Cougars Seek to Recapture MomentumWashington State has been inconsistent in Kyle Smith’s first season running the show out on the Palouse. The Cougars started the year 3-4, including a home loss to Nebraska Omaha, before reeling off six straight wins. Their best win in that stretch was a triumph over New Mexico State in Spokane on a neutral floor. Washington State followed that six-game run with three losses in four games, including a 26-point whipping at Stanford two weeks ago. Of course, the Cougars bounced back with a vengeance, earning a win over #8 Oregon and then downing Oregon State 48 hours later with both games coming at home. That momentum didn’t leave Pullman on the plane with the team as they were hammered by Colorado.
The Cougars are putting up an average of 71.6 points a night so far this season, which is 174th in the nation in scoring offense. Washington State pulls down 36.6 rebounds a night while handing out just 11.9 assists per game. The Cougars are above average defensively, ranking 139th in scoring defense as they give up 67.5 points a game. CJ Elleby leads the team with 18.8 points plus 7.1 rebounds per contest this season. Isaac Bonton is the only other player in double figures with 14.3 points plus 4.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Jeff Pollard, Aljaz Kunc, Daron Henson, Noah WIlliams and Jervae Robinson are key members of the rotation for Kyle Smith’s team. Washington State shoots 40.4 percent from the floor as a team on the year. The Cougars splash 7.6 triples a night while shooting a dismal 31.4 percent from beyond the arc. Washington State is average at the charity stripe as they cash in 73 percent of their attempts this season. Marvin Cannon is out with an ankle injury that Smith said last week could keep him out another three or four weeks. Jaylen Shead is likely done for the year with a hip injury, which will seriously test the Cougars’ depth.
The Cougars are just 172nd in the nation in offensive efficiency this season. Washington State is a dismal 292nd in effective field goal percentage (46.5 percent) this season, which more than negates that they are 16th in turnover percentage by only coughing the ball up on 15.8 percent of their possessions this season. The Cougars are just 256th in three-point shooting and 286th in two-point shooting as they hit 46.2 percent from inside the arc. Washington State’s inefficiency makes it tough on a defense that is pretty good as they are 48th in turnover percentage at 22.1 percent and 93rd in three-point field goal percentage defense at 31.3 percent. The Cougars play fast, ranking 77th in tempo with 70.3 possessions per game.
Utah Utes Looking to Build Something PositiveUtah started the season strong but has struggled mightily of late as the team has been unable to come up with key plays on either end in crunch time. The Utes enter this game 11-7 overall on the year and 2-4 in the Pac-12 under the guidance of Larry Krystkowiak. Utah opened the year with three straight wins, including a home win over Minnesota. The team opened the season 9-2, including a neutral floor win over Kentucky and a home win over BYU. Since that point, the Utes are just 2-5. They had dropped four straight games before rebounding to edge Washington at home Thursday night to get back in the win column.
The Utes are 90th in the nation in scoring offense as they pile up 75.3 points per game this season. Utah is tied for fifth in the nation in rebounding by grabbing 37.7 rebounds per contest while they stand 50th by handing out 14.2 assists per contest this season. The Utes are struggling defensively, ranking 253rd in scoring defense by allowing 72.4 points per game this season. Timmy Allen contributes a team-leading 19.4 points plus 7.6 rebounds per contest. Both Gach chips in 10.9 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists a night while Riley Battin chips in 9.7 points plus 4.9 rebounds per contest. Rylan Jones (10.4 points, 5.1 assists), Mikael Jantunen, Alfonso Plummer, Branden Carlson and Jaxon Brenchley are solid secondary options for Larry Krystkowiak’s team. Utah is shooting 45.5 percent from the field this season. The Utes are knocking down 7.5 triples per contest this season while shooting 33.3 percent from the arc. Utah is above average at the charity stripe as they cash in on 74.7 percent of their attempts this season.
According to KenPom, the Utes have a solid offensive attack but their defense needs a little work. The Utes are 62nd in offensive efficiency but 192nd in defensive efficiency on the season. Utah is 67th in effective field goal percentage (52.1 percent), 36th in two-point shooting (53.6 percent), 64th in free throw shooting and 104th in offensive rebounding percentage (30.2 percent) on the season. The Utes do a good job getting to the charity stripe as they take .398 free throws per every field goal attempt this season. That mark is good enough for 31st in the country. Utah is a slower than average team as they are 220th in tempo with an average of 67.5 possessions per game.
The top trends for this contest according to Covers.com:
- Cougars are 7-23-1 ATS in their last 31 road games
- Cougars are 6-20 ATS in their last 26 road games vs. a team with a winning home record
- Utes are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 home games
- Utes are 52-23-3 ATS in their last 78 home games vs. a team with a losing road record