SALT LAKE CITY — Jordan Loveridge made history on Monday. The sophomore became the first Utah men’s basketball player to ever earn Pac-12 Player of the Week recognition.
Loveridge was honored by the conference after leading the Utes to victories over Idaho State and BYU. He scored a career-high 27 points in Tuesday’s 74-66 win over the Bengals and followed it up with a game-high 21 in Saturday’s 81-64 triumph over the Cougars.
After averaging 24 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and two blocks over the games, Loveridge was also named National Player of the Week by CBSSports.com.
While noting that Loveridge is just a third of the way through his sophomore year, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak acknowledged that the former West Jordan High School star is continually improving and works hard to do so.
“I’ve always been a firm believer that one of the biggest secrets to success in life is how much work you put in and it's not just about working and being in the gym for hours and hours on end, but it's working wisely,” said Krystkowiak, who explained that Loveridge spends a lot of time working on his shot early in the morning and is stronger than he was a year ago when he was 25 pounds heavier. “He’s just getting dialed in. He’s growing up and figuring out some responsibility and I think everything that he’s doing now he’s trying to be the best at. He’s been a big catalyst for us right now, providing a spark for us and the time is right. We need him to get it rolling and keep it rolling.”
In the BYU game, Loveridge had the hot hand early — making six of his first eight shots and scoring 15 points in less than seven minutes — as Utah pulled away handily and improved to 9-1 on the season.
“I just saw that I had the shots that I’ve practiced all year and I shoot every day,” Loveridge said. “So they were giving me the shots that I wanted and my teammates were giving me the ball. Fortunately, I was knocking them down at the start.”
WORK IN PROGRESS: Krystkowiak declined to say that the BYU win marked a significant turnaround for the program he was hired to build when Utah joined the Pac-12 in 2011. He looks at it as being part of a process.
“It’s about waking up every morning and trying to get a little bit better, fixing what’s broken and improving,” Krystkowiak said. “And that’s more of a process, I think, than any kind of statement where all of a sudden it’s turned around. I still would like to see it in the form of a graph where we’re moving up and it was a nice little uptick for us, I think.”
Even so, Krystkowiak acknowledged Saturday’s game “certainly was fun” and part of “getting this thing back on track.”
EXTRA STUFF: Krystkowiak said that junior college transfer Marko Kovacevic, who was sidelined with a broken hand, has been cleared to play. ... Utah takes on Texas State Thursday night at 7 in the Huntsman Center. The Utes defeated the Bobcats 74-69 last season in San Marcos. ... Utah guard Delon Wright leads the Pac-12 in field goal percentage (.697). Loveridge tops the conference in defensive rebounds (7.8 per game).