Larry Krystkowiak

Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak motions to his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against California in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men's tournament Friday, March 11, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
AP Photo/John Locher

Utah beats California in OT, advances to first-ever Pac-12 title game

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When hired as Utah head coach in 2011, Larry Krystkowiak took on what at the time was a monumental task. The program, which finished below .500 in each of the two seasons prior to Krystkowiak’s arrival, was making the move from the Mountain West to the Pac-12 and a lot of work needed to be done to ensure that the program would not only be competitive in its new home but successful as well.

That first team won just six games, but Krystkowiak and his staff steadily rebuilt the Utah program, and last season the Runnin’ Utes made their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2005. Late Friday night Utah took another step forward, as they advanced to the Pac-12 tournament title game for the first time in program’s brief history in the conference with an 82-78 overtime win over No. 3 seed California.

Lorenzo Bonam’s coast to coast drive for a layup that left his hand just before time expired pushed the game into overtime, and in the extra session the Runnin’ Utes were able to grab control of the game and hold off the Golden Bears in the end.

Last year’s team had a first round draft pick in Delon Wright, and this year’s group is anchored by a projected lottery pick in sophomore center Jakob Poeltl. Poeltl’s ability to not only score from 15 feet and in but also find open teammates makes him a tough matchup. And with this being the case, Cal made the decision to defend him straight up as opposed to sending double teams on the catch or first dribble.

As a result Poeltl finished the game with 29 points and 11 rebounds, outplaying the Golden Bear front line. What helped Cal was the fact that Utah shot just 7-for-21 from three, and fellow forward Kyle Kuzma had a quiet night with just five points. But Bonam added 18 points, and senior Brandon Taylor adding 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting from the field.

Both teams found the going tough at times offensively, with Cal’s Jaylen Brown shooting 3-for-17 from the field and fellow freshman Ivan Rabb being held in check until he made a couple key shots late in regulation. But in the extra session it was Utah that executed well enough to get the shots they needed to pick up the win. That goes hand in hand with the questions some have asked regarding the Golden Bears’ ability to finish close games against quality competition.

Cal’s done a very good job of this at home, where they finished the season undefeated, but that hasn’t carried over into games away from home. There was the loss at Virginia in December, and the collapse at Arizona just last week. Of course there’s no shame in losing to a Virginia, Arizona or Utah, but given the talent and the teams they’ll need to beat in order to make a run deep into the NCAA tournament Cal needs to get better in tight situations.

While Cal will return home to get ready for the NCAA tournament, Utah will look to come up with a strategy that can be successful against an Oregon team that swept the season series. And in Utah’s fifth season as a member of the Pac-12, a win over the Ducks would be a watershed moment for a program that has steadily developed into one capable of sustaining (and building upon) this success for years to come.


No. 22 Utah builds 30-2 lead in 81-46 rout of Arizona State

Utah forward Gabe Bealer celebrates a 3-point shot against Arizona State during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. Utah defeated Arizona State 81-46. (AP Photo/George Frey)
AP Photo/George Frey
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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Brekkott Chapman had 15 points and No. 22 Utah blitzed Arizona State 81-46 on Thursday night, scoring the first 15 points of the game and opening a 30-2 lead on the way to its fifth straight victory.

Jordan Loveridge added 14 points, Brandon Taylor had 12 and Dakarai Tucker scored 10 for Utah, which plays its final two regular-season games at home, against Arizona and Colorado.

The Utes (22-7, 11-5 Pac-12), just a half-game back of first-place Oregon, made their first five 3-point attempts, including three by Loveridge, to jump out to a 15-0 lead.

Obinna Oleka scored for ASU, but Utah went on to score another 15 consecutive points. The eye-popping 30-2 lead produced some remarkable statistics: The Sun Devils started 1 for 16 from the field with four shots blocked and had 10 turnovers to go along with that single basket.

Former SMU point guard Barefield transfers to Utah

Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak directs his team against Stanford during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Jan. 1, 2016, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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With Brandon Taylor being a senior and Lorenzo Bonam a junior, Utah was in a position where they could use an addition at the point with the future in mind. Wednesday afternoon Larry Krystkowiak’s program accomplished that, as former SMU point guard Sedrick Barefield committed to transferring to Utah.

Barefield didn’t see much playing time (five games, 16 minutes) in his one semester at SMU, which is understandable given the fact that the Mustangs have one of the nation’s best point guards in senior Nic Moore. Ranked 128th in the Class of 2015 out of high school by, Barefield can both score and distribute the basketball from the point guard position, and he’s a talented addition to a roster that will have some holes to fill on the perimeter at the end of this season.

In addition to Taylor, Utah will also lose Dakarai Tucker and Jordan Loveridge at the end of this season. Barefield is the third perimeter commitment in Utah’s 2016 class, joining Devon Daniels and Yuba College guard Jojo Zamora. Also in that class is talented power forward/center Jayce Johnson, who’s enrolled at Utah and will redshirt this season, and former Utah State forward David Collette transferred to Utah as well.

It should be noted that Collette, who was one of the Mountain West’s best players last season, has yet to officially join the Utah program. Barefield will be eligible to play at the end of the 2016 fall semester.

Rivals Utah, BYU won’t play next season

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - DECEMBER 2: Brandon Taylor #11 of the Utah Utes tries for the basket between Jamal Aytes #40 and Nick Emery #4 of the Brigham Young Cougars in the first half at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on December 2, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
Associated Press

In early December in-state rivals BYU and Utah played for the 257th time, with the Runnin’ Utes winning by the final score of 83-75 in Salt Lake City. Of course the game wasn’t without controversy, as BYU guard Nick Emery was ejected for striking Utah’s Brandon Taylor in the face late in the second half. Emery was given a one-game suspension for his actions, and it appeared as if there was a ready-made subplot for next season’s game in Provo.

Only one problem: the two teams won’t be playing. Wednesday afternoon BYU announced that Utah has decided to cancel next season’s game, and it remains to be seen if the teams will play again any time soon.

“I disagree with the decision,” BYU head coach Dave Rose said in the release. “I know our students, our players, our fans and college basketball fans in the intermountain area want to see this long-standing rivalry continue.”

Rose had more to say about the matter addressing the media Wednesday evening, reiterating his displeasure with Utah’s decision to pay a financial penalty to get out of the game.

“The rivalry is pretty heated. We’ve had some interesting moments over the years,” Rose said. “I’ve been involved in it for 18 years, and that’s a lot of the excitement of the game. You don’t want things to get out of hand, but in rivalry games things tend to get pretty heated at times. I don’t think that, from my point of view, the safety of the players is an issue.”

Next season’s game was scheduled to be played in Provo, and Rose added in his comments that in his opinion the game would still be on if it were to be played at Utah.

SG Devon Daniels becomes Utah’s third 2016 commit

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Utah landed one of its top targets in the Class of 2016 Wednesday night, as Prolific Prep (Napa, California) shooting guard Devon Daniels announced his decision via Twitter. Daniels, who’s from Kalamazoo, Michigan, transferred to Prolific Prep ahead of his senior season, and among his teammates are five-star guard Josh Jackson and recent UConn commit Vance Jackson.

The 6-foot-5 Daniels is essentially Utah’s third commitment in the Class of 2016. While recent commit Jayce Johnson will join the program as a walk-on in December, he’ll be redshirting with the 2016-17 campaign serving as his debut season. Junior college guard Jojo Zamora has also verbally committed to Utah.

Daniels’ recruiting profile rose in the month of July, which he capped with a championship at the Las Vegas Fab 48 playing alongside Jackson for the 1Nation grassroots program. Daniels took his official visit to Utah in early September, and DePaul was also in the running for his verbal commitment. Daniels’ versatility on offense and solid defense were on display then, and those are attributes that Utah can reap the benefits of when he arrives on campus.

Utah has three seniors in its perimeter rotation in Brandon Taylor, Dakarai Tucker and Jordan Loveridge. Among the current perimeter players who will have eligibility remaining when Daniels and Zamora arrive on campus are juniors Kenneth Ogbe and Lorenzo Bonam, and sophomores Isaiah Wright and Brandon Miller.

Video credit: Next Up Recruits

Utah center Jeremy Olsen to take medical scholarship, ends college career

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With Jakob Poeltl deciding to return for his sophomore season, Utah should once again be a factor in the Pac-12 race in 2015-16. However the Runnin’ Utes will have to account for two personnel losses in its front court, as Dallin Bachynski is out of eligibility and Jeremy Olsen’s college career has come to an end.

Wednesday the program announced that Olsen, who’s had to deal with a nagging hip issue for much of his time at Utah, will take a medical scholarship as opposed to an athletic one. Olsen will remain a part of the program, but the move means that his college playing career has come to a close. Olsen didn’t see much playing time on last season’s Sweet 16 team, averaging 1.6 points and 1.4 rebounds in just over six minutes of action per contest.

However with Bachynski moving on, there was an opening for the big man to earn a few more minutes in 2015-16.

“It’s difficult to have my career cut short due to injury, but playing basketball for Utah has been one of the most amazing times of my life,” Olsen said in the release. “I have had so many great experiences with my teammates that I will cherish. Being a part of the progress this program has made has been so rewarding.

“This university is a place that my wife and I will always love. I am grateful that I will still be able to assist the program next year.”

Olsen will remain a part of the Utah program next season while attending graduate school, with the school noting that his role has yet to be determined. With Olsen unavailable Chris Reyes, who started 33 games at the four, could see some minutes at the center position when Poeltl needs a breather.

Utah also announced the addition of 6-foot-4 guard Lorenzo Bonam, who gives them additional depth on the perimeter as head coach Larry Krystkowiak looks to account for the loss of All-American Delon Wright.