Slowly but surely, Larry Krystkowiak’s Utah basketball program is taking steps back towards respectability.
After winning just six games in his first season at the Pac-12 school, Krystkowiak’s team improved its win total by nine games in 2012-13 and reached the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament. With rising sophomores Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor being joined by a six-member recruiting class that includes junior guard Delon Wright, the hope is that the Utes can improve their standing within the conference (5-13 record last season) in 2013-14.
Coach Krystkowiak and his staff have done a good job on the recruiting trail as well, and on Friday it was reported by Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune that 6-8 forward Kyle Kuzma has verbally committed to attend Utah. The versatile Kuzma, who some have described as a “point forward,” joins 6-8 forward Brekkott Chapman as commitments in Utah’s 2014 class.
Utah will lose just one senior at the end of the 2013-14 campaign, with that playing being 6-9 power forward Renan Lenz. Utah was in a bit of a downward spiral towards the end of their time in the Mountain West, and their move to the Pac-12 made the rebuilding process a little tougher. But with the newcomers on board to join key contributors such as Loveridge and Taylor, things may be starting to look up for a program that during the 1990s was one of the best in the western United States.
Monmouth used a 17-2 run in the final minutes to beat Rider on Friday night, a win that will keep the Hawks within striking distance of the kind of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament should they fall in the MAAC tourney.
The run was capped by star point guard Justin Robinson, who buried this three with three seconds left to put Monmouth up for good, 79-78:
Allonzo Trier scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half and Parker Jackson-Cartwright scored 16 points in his second career start as No. 17 Arizona knocked off UCLA, 81-75, in Tucson on Friday night.
UCLA was up by as much as 11 points in the first half and took a ten point lead into half time, but in the second half, the Bruins were eventually done in by foul trouble and the stronger front line of the Wildcats.
Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski were dominant down the stretch. The duo combined to score 12 of the last 23 point for the Wildcats, including the bucket that put the Wildcats ahead for the first time since early in the first half. Off of a missed free throw, UCLA’s Thomas Welsh battled with Tarczewski for the rebound, but when Welsh finally seemed to gain control of the loose ball, Anderson knocked it out of his hands and bullied through Jonah Bolden for a layup.
All told, those two combined for 20 points and 27 boards, seven of which were offensive. They also managed to foul out both Welsh and Tony Parker, although some of the calls that went against UCLA down the stretch were questionable.
The win keeps Arizona within a game of first place Oregon in the Pac-12 standings and tied for second with No. 23 USC, who will be visiting the McKale Center on Sunday night.