Thursday night, for the first time since Dec. 22, Jordan Loveridge scored in double digits, and he did so with flair. In the first half alone against Washington State, he already had 11 points. By the end of the game, he registered 22 and was 5-of-9 from three-point range. Loveridge also hauled in four rebounds to help the Utes beat Washington State, 92-71.
However, it wasn’t just Loveridge who stepped up for the Utes. Fellow senior Brandon Taylor also made noticeable improvements against the Cougars. Taylor finished just one point shy of Loveridge, with 21 points, but he made just as many three pointers as he was 5-of-7 from beyond the arc. He also added three rebounds and a couple of assists.
Last week, Larry Krystkowiak had a hard time identifying any of his players as leaders. He saw a deflated team against Oregon, and no one was able to come out of the shadows to lead the team. Although all the players had a different mindset Thursday night in Pullman, it was the senior tandem of Taylor and Loveridge who really outshined the rest, and Krystkowiak was glad to see his oldest players paving the way for a win.
Whether it’s the fact that they only have a short period of time left as college athletes or simply that they needed a convincing win, both seniors stepped up when it counted the most.
“Those guys have been focused,” Krystkowiak said in a postgame interview with ESPN 700. “You can tell their senior clock is ticking. Jordan really has been, in the last 10 days, as good as I’ve ever seen him defensively, working in practice and working out here. And we talked about how you got to respect the game.”
Earlier this week, the team had primarily been working on defense. Taylor even mentioned that he knew he wasn’t going to have to worry too much about his offensive play. So long as he was dialed in defensively, everything would fall into place, and so it did with him shooting 50 percent from the field.
After the game, Loveridge essentially echoed his teammate’s sentiments about how his main focus was not on scoring, but rather on not allowing the other team to score. However, it still felt good for the senior to get back into a groove since he has been struggling from the floor the past month.
One person who helped him set his mind straight was his father, who emphasized giving 100 percent every night. It doesn’t matter if the shots are falling — he needs to continue making himself the best he can be.
“I sat down with my dad, and he said no matter what happens in the game, you can only control how hard you play,” Loveridge said in a postgame interview with ESPN 700. “I took that to heart, and in practice you got to go hard and do little things every day to help you in games. Can’t just go through the motions in practice and show up to games. You got to go hard everyday.”
He played with more confidence Thursday night than he has all season long, shooting 61.5 percent from the floor.
Although Krystkowiak notes that the seniors are doing a better job of showing leadership, Loveridge thinks everyone is doing their part in coming to practice with a new but similar outlook on what they want to accomplish in the rest of the season.
“Everyone’s hungry, and everyone’s tired of losing, and we know we should be at top of the Pac-12, and we want to get there,” Loveridge said.
Loveridge, Taylor and the rest of the Utes hope this win will motivate them to get another one against Washington on Sunday.