Thursday, April 17, 2014

Utah basketball: Ute sophomore Jordan Loveridge nets honors

By Dirk Facer, Deseret News

Published: Mon, Dec. 16 11:04 p.m. MST

 Utah Utes forward Jordan Loveridge (21) works his way to the basket as Brigham Young Cougars guard Frank Bartley IV (24) defends during a game at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on Saturday, December 14, 2013.

Utah Utes forward Jordan Loveridge (21) works his way to the basket as Brigham Young Cougars guard Frank Bartley IV (24) defends during a game at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on Saturday, December 14, 2013.

(Matt Gade, Deseret News)

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).

Email: dirk@desnews.com

Twitter: @DirkFacer

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1. ????
Murray, UT,
Dec. 16, 2013

This is so exciting. It makes me forget we aren't going to a bowl for the second year in a row. It is the little victories.

2. Christopher B
Ogden, UT,
Dec. 16, 2013

Congratulations to the best player in Utah, who plays for the best team in Utah, Jordan Loveridge and the Pac 12 Running Utes.

3. Big 12 Call Yet?
Ogden, UT,
Dec. 16, 2013

This is a well deserved honor for the best player in Utah.

I am starting to get worried however.

We have 3 top 25 teams we'll play twice each in conference play, including the #1 team in the nation.

I'm just not sure a non-conference schedule with teams like Evergreen and byu are getting us ready for Pac 12 play.

Go Utes!

4. 2013 Ute Seniors SWEEP byU 4-0
Ogden, UT,
Dec. 16, 2013

????,

You're right, walloping byu really is a little victory.

Big margin of victory, but over a little opponent.

5. Big 12 Call Yet?
Ogden, UT,
Dec. 16, 2013

And at the beginning of the year who believed that Utah had the best chance of any local team to make it to the big dance?

It's now clear that we are the best team in the state, and its really not even close.

Bring on some true big time programs like Arizona, UCLA, Oregon, and our rival and top 25 Colorado!

byu and usu's seasons are meanwhile essentially over!

LOL