Utes battle Beavers in Pac-12 affair

Feb 19, 2015 - 3:36 PM Corvallis, OR (SportsNetwork.com) - The ninth-ranked Utah Utes will attempt to keep pace atop the Pac-12 standings, as they embark on a two-game road trip through the Pacific Northwest, starting with Thursday's clash with the Oregon State Beavers at Gill Coliseum.

Larry Krystkowiak's Utes are tied with Arizona atop of the Pac-12 standings at 10-2. Utah has won four straight games and six of its last seven overall. The team moved to 20-4 on the year with Sunday's 76-61 win over California. Despite the impressive record, all four of Utah's losses have come on the road.

Wayne Tinkle's Beavers are coming off a fruitless road trip to the City of Angels, dropping double-digit decisions to both UCLA (75-59) and USC (68-55). OSU is now 16-9 overall with a 7-6 league mark. However, the team has been especially sharp at home, where it is 14-0 this year, the best home start in school history.

Utah holds a 14-10 edge in the all-time series with Oregon State and has won two straight meetings, including an 80-69 decision last January. Oregon State however, is an impressive 9-1 against Utah in games played in Corvallis.

Oregon State's home record will be put to the test by the stingy Utes, who rank first in the Pac-12 and 10th nationally in scoring defense, yielding just 56.4 ppg. Opponents are shooting just .379 overall against Utah, which counters with an impressive .497 efficiency of its own. The Utes are netting 74.3 ppg, led by a trio of double-figure scorers. Senior guard Delon Wright is the catalyst for the Utes, pacing the team in both scoring (14.3 ppg) and assists (5.4 apg - third in the Pac-12). Brandon Taylor (10.9 ppg) and Jordan Loveridge (10.3 ppg) complete the set. Freshman big man Jakob Poeltl (9.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg) is a force at the defensive end, as the 7-foot youngster tops the team with 42 blocks.

California held a six-point lead in the first half, but Utah flipped the script and took a six-point lead into the break. That inflated to as much as 18 points in the second half, as Utah kept the Golden Bears at a distance the rest of the way to remain unbeaten at home. Poeltl led four Utes in double figures with 18 points. Wright finished with 16 points, while Taylor and Dakarai Tucker chipped in with 13 and 12 points, respectively.

Oregon State has been fueled by its strong defensive play as well this season. The team is yielding a mere 57.5 ppg, as opponents convert just .376 from the floor. The team has done a great job in forcing turnovers, nearly 15 per game. Star guard Gary Payton II has played a huge role in that area. He currently ranks third nationally in steals, at 3.04 per game. He also leads OSU in scoring (13.1 ppg) and rebounding (7.9 rpg) and is second in assists (3.0 apg). The Beavers are still dealing with a 10-game suspension levied on Victor Robbins (10.3 ppg), leaving more of a scoring burden on players like Langston Morris-Walker (10.1 ppg) and Malcolm Duvivier (9.6 ppg).

The Beavers hit rock-bottom last time out, falling to Pac-12 cellar dweller USC by 13 points. OSU managed a mere 55 points in the loss, as the team shot a miserable .328 from the field, while committing 16 turnovers. Morris-Walker led the offensive charge with 17 points in defeat. Payton had another solid game all-around, with 11 points, eight rebounds and six steals. Duvivier and Daniel Gomis added 10 points apiece, with Gomis just missing a double-double with a team-best nine boards.

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