Utah basketball: Mikael Jantunen returning to Utes, just not in time to help against Oregon on Saturday

Utah Utes forward Mikael Jantunen (20) and Stanford Cardinal forward Brandon Angel (23) compete for the ball in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. The Utes won 79-65.

Utah Utes forward Mikael Jantunen (20) and Stanford Cardinal forward Brandon Angel (23) compete for the ball in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. The Utes won 79-65. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Having lost two straight, Utes will look to get back on track against the Ducks, who have won 18 of 20 Pac-12 matchups with Utah dating back to the 2011-12 season

This maddening, somewhat perplexing habit the University of Utah men’s basketball team has this season of beating teams it seemingly shouldn’t be able to hang with and losing to teams it is favored to handle will be put to the test again Saturday night.

Having played its poorest game of the season Thursday in a baffling 74-56 loss to Oregon State, Utah faces red-hot Oregon at 7 p.m. MST at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene.

The Ducks have won four of their last five games, including a 60-56 win over Colorado Thursday night, and are in third place in the Pac-12 standings.

“I have never had a problem with a team beating us, but I really feel like a lot of this is self-inflicted right now. We are doing a pretty good job of beating ourselves, and that can’t happen.” — Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak

Don’t put it past these Utes (9-9, 6-8) to give Oregon (13-4, 8-3) all it wants, if their pattern that has come to define the 2020-21 season holds true.

Utah is in eighth place in the Pac-12.

“We have played Oregon once before (this season),” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “It has never really been so much about the Xs and Os and the plays, but it is about some elite athletes, and Dana (Altman) does a good job of putting them in positions to succeed. There are a lot of facets to it to win a basketball game (against Oregon).”

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That’s true even though Oregon has mostly owned the Utes since they joined the Pac-12 in 2011. Oregon has won 18 of 20 conference matchups, and six straight.

“There are elite players at every position,” Krystkowiak said. “… I just know we are going to have to be ready.”

The Ducks beat the Utes 79-73 at the Huntsman Center on Jan. 9, but that doesn’t tell half the story. Utah led 43-33 at halftime — displaying that “we can beat anybody” form — then started turning the ball over like it was an invitation to a Provo dance party, gave up 22 points off turnovers in the second half and suffered the deflating defeat.

Junior guard Will Richardson, out after surgery for a fractured thumb in early December, didn’t play in that game for the Ducks. He returned in February and is averaging 11.8 points per game in five games.

“He is a dynamic player and gives them one more terrific offensive weapon, and he is a real active defender as well, and a guy that’s got some experience,” Krystkowiak said.

Timmy Allen scored 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting in that one, while Mikael Jantunen added …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Sports News

      

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