Corvallis, OR – Two of the best defensive teams in the country got together tonight in Corvallis before 6.124 loud Beaver fans as Oregon State faced the No. 9 -ranked Utah Utes. The Beavers took a very surprising 14-0 home record into the contest, with their coach Wayne Tinkle in the mix for national coach of the year. The game went according to plan, with baskets very hard to come by as the Utes (21-4, 11-2) escaped with a hard-fought 47-37 win over the Beavers (16-10, 7-7). Dakarai Tucker led Utah with 11 points while Delon Wright added nine points, nine rebounds and five assists.
The game matched two teams in the top 10 in adjusted defensive rating with the Utes at No. 5 and the Beavers at No. 10. The first half was a defensive battle with Utah taking a 16-14 lead into intermission. Both teams shot 7-of-19 from the field with Utah (2-of-10) making the only two three-pointers while the Beavers were 0-of-5 from long-distance. Utah dominated the boards with a 16-9 advantage but were hurt by their eight turnovers.
The game opened up slightly midway through the second half. The Utes started making a few threes to extend their lead. Tucker hit two three-pointers from the corner and Jordan Loveridge made a long three from the wing to give Utah a 35-26 lead. Brandon Taylor followed with another three to extend the lead to 38-28 at the 4:30 mark. Utah coasted to the win in one of the lowest scoring games of the year. Utah had a +8 rebounding advantage and made five more three-pointers than the Beavers. Wright defended Gary Payton II much of the night and held him to six pints on only seven shot attempts.
Utah features two future first round NBA Draft picks in Wright and Jakob Poeltl. Wright is one of the most effective players in the nation. According to Ken Pomeroy’s statistical website he has been battling Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky as the top player statistically in the country. Going into tonight’s game Wright leads the Utes in minutes (32.2), points (14.3), assists (5.4) and steals (2.3). He’s also second on the team in rebounds (4.5) and blocks (0.8). His assists to turnover ratio is at an extremely strong 3.02. Wright needs to improve his shooting at the next level (27.7% on 3’s) but that appears likely with time. He’s shooting over 82% from the foul stripe. Wright is long, excellent defensively and will likely have a long NBA career as a starting point guard.
Poeltl, the 7’0 center, has been a surprise in his first year in the USA after coming over from Austria. He has excellent hands, runs the floor well and can rebound well outside of his area. He has very good instincts on defense with good timing as a shot-blocker and can defend well away from the basket and against ball screens. On offense Poeltl needs development but his footwork is very good and he is athletic around the hoop. He generally works very well with Wright in the pick-and-roll. He takes good shots around the basket and is averaging 67.4% on his field goal attempts. He averages 7.4 rebounds in 23.2 minutes per game and is ranked fifth nationally in offensive rebounding percentage according to kenpom.com. Tonight he wasn’t much of a factor finishing with two points and seven rebounds.
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