Seattle, WA (SportsNetwork.com) - The 2014-15 regular season draws to a close for a couple of Pac-12 Conference teams, as the 13th-ranked Utah Utes pay a visit to the Washington Huskies on Saturday afternoon.
Utah is hoping to secure the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Pac-12 Tournament, as the team has logged a 23-6 overall record and a 13-4 league ledger. The Utes have split their last four games, with a 67-59 win at Washington State on Thursday being their latest triumph. That win improved them to 7-5 in true road games this season.
Washington's season began strong, as the team won its first 11 games. However, a stunning home loss to Stony Brook on Dec. 28 started the Huskies on a downward spiral that would see them lose 13 of their last 17. UW has dropped three in a row, the most recent being a 64-47 home setback to Colorado on Thursday, and it has lost 10 of its last 11 overall. The Huskies are hoping to stay out of the Pac-12 cellar, as they sit just a game up on last-place USC (3-15) as the final weekend began.
Utah was a 77-56 winner when these two teams met in Salt Lake City earlier this season, as Dakarai Tucker scored 19 points to pace three double-digit scorers for the Utes, while Andrew Andrews tallied 22 points by hitting five 3-pointers in defeat for the Huskies.
As a result, the all-time series now leans in favor of the Utes, 9-8.
Delon Wright tallied 18 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in powering Utah to its win at Washington State on Thursday night. Lending a hand were Jordan Loveridge with 16 points and Brandon Taylor with 11, but it wasn't a perfect showing by the Utes. Despite draining 10 3-pointers, only 40.4 percent of their total shots were successful. They did manage to claim a 19-14 edge in points from the foul line, as well as a 37-26 rebounding advantage, all while holding the Cougars to 40.8 percent field goal efficiency, which encompassed a 5-of-16 performance out on the perimeter.
Utah is the best defensive team in the Pac-12, and it ranks eighth nationally with an average yield of only 55.8 ppg. Factor in a scoring attack that accounts for 72.4 ppg, and the Utes are right there with league champ Arizona in terms of average scoring margin. Furthermore, Utah ranks first in the Pac-12 in both field goal percentage (.488) and field goal percentage defense (.375), and the Utes are also the top 3-point shooting team in the league, coming in at an even 40 percent. They also rank first in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.27). Wright (14.4 ppg, 5.4 apg, 2.2 spg) leads the team in scoring, assists and steals, while Taylor (10.4 ppg, 3.4 apg) and Loveridge (10.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg) have proven themselves to be valuable contributors as well.
Andrews nailed five treys en route to 20 points and Mike Anderson added 11 more, the duo also combining for 13 rebounds, but those efforts went for naught as Washington came up short in Thursday's home clash with Colorado. The Huskies made good on only 30.5 percent of their field goal attempts, missing the mark on 17 of their 24 long-range launches along the way. They were outscored in the paint, 40-18, and in bench points, 25-4. About the only saving grace, outside the effort put forth by Andrews, was that they limited the Buffaloes to 4-of-19 success from beyond the arc.
By all accounts, Washington is a middle-of-the-pack team in the Pac-12 in most statistical categories. For the season, the Huskies boast three double-digit scorers, only two of which are active, in Nigel Williams-Goss (15 ppg), Andrews (14 ppg) and Robert Upshaw (11 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 4.5 bpg), the latter of whom was dismissed from the team back in January. The Huskies are in the negative with regard to both rebounding and turnover margins, and they struggle to hit their 3-point shots as well (less than 31 percent). They do however, hold their opponents below 42 percent accuracy from the floor.