Kaleb Tarczewski, Jason Washburn, Cedric Martin

Utah falls to No. 9 Arizona, missing golden opportunity due to two-point shooting

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“You are what your record says you are.” – Bill Parcells

While the words of one of the football’s greatest coaches are true, they can sometimes mask the steps a struggling programs has taken towards at the very least being more competitive. That’s the case with Larry Krystkowiak’s Utah Utes, who lost 68-64 to No. 9 Arizona on Sunday afternoon.

On the season Utah is 11-14 overall and 3-10 in Pac-12 play so the numbers clearly aren’t pretty in that regard. But these Utes are far more competitive in their second season in the Pac-12, with Sunday’s close call being the most recent example of the strides taken.

The statistic in Sunday’s loss that tells the story for Utah: they shot 14-of-37 (37.8%) from inside the three-point arc. And when playing a team the quality of the Wildcats the Utes can ill afford to shoot that poorly if they’re to be successful.

Mark Lyons led the Wildcats with 18 points and Solomon Hill and Brandon Ashley added ten points apiece, but Arizona shot 6-of-22 from beyond the arc with their senior point guard going 1-of-9.

The Wildcats left Salt Lake City with a win, avoiding a road sweep (and a three-game losing streak), due to big plays made down the stretch by their senior leaders and Utah’s poor marksmanship inside of the arc.

Senior Jarred DuBois (16 points) and Jason Washburn (15 points, seven rebounds) led the way offensively for the Utes, who knocked off Arizona State 60-55 on Thursday night. Thanks to these two veterans (DuBois played his first three seasons at Loyola Marymount) and freshman forward Jordan Loveridge (12.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg), Krystkowiak’s Utes have taken steps in the right direction when it comes to competing in the Pac-12.

DuBois and Washburn will be gone at the end of this season but in Loveridge, Utah has a player (who has been one of the league’s best freshmen) they can build around.

There have been some tough nights this season, most recently losses to Stanford (87-55) and Oregon State (82-64) in recent weeks, but the nights on which Utah has looked overwhelmed from a talent standpoint have been infrequent.

“You are what your record says you are.” Slowly but surely Krystkowiak and his program work to make sure their record in future seasons will paint a better picture of Utah basketball.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.