If anybody is thinking of losing faith in the Utah mens basketball program, especially coming off a brutal four-game losing streak in which they've been outscored by 47 points in the second half over the past three games, Utah star forward Timmy Allen wants them to reconsider.
“People can jump ship. But as long as we stay bought in on this, and we continue to work and grind on this, I think we are right there,” Allen said. “We didn’t even play great (against Colorado), and our defense was good enough to keep us in it. We just gotta keep the flow. I believe, man. I think we are right there.”
Allen would know better than any other Ute of how good this team can be. The most experienced player on the roster, he has been a star for the Utes the past two season when he earned all-Pac-12 second team honors in 2019 and appears on his way to earning first-team honors this season.
He's averaging 15.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, but has really shined during the four game losing streak. He's emerged as much more than a low post scorer as he's knocking down jump shots (and the occasional three-pointer) while also serving as a secondary playmaker by averaging 3.0 assists over that time period.
The emotional leader and captain of the team, Allen believes the Utes are right there when it comes to winning games. It's just going to take a full 40 minutes of play to get the wins as the Utes have been dominant in the first half the past three games.
“In league play, man, you gotta be tough,” Allen said. “And you gotta be tough for 40 minutes. We can’t be the responder in the second half, like we have been. We don’t come out strong enough. That first four minutes set the tone for the rest of the half, and we have to be better. Our first halves are great. I mean, even a stretch in the USC game (a 64-46 loss) we were rolling. And then we just get stagnant. We can’t let it happen, man.”
Allen's maturation has been apparent over the past four games as despite the second-half collapses, he's often been the guy who's talking the most. He's constantly trying to pump up his teammates and get into their ears after plays. Rather than sulking, he's been imploring the Utes to keep fighting and it's been special to see from someone who's never been challenged on the court like this.
“Every team is going to watch the film and they are going to come out hard now, so we just have to improve, man,” Allen said. “We just gotta keep the flow going on offense and continue to get good shots. … I am still bought in, man. I am going to keep grinding, get in my teammates’ ears. We just got to be tougher, play harder for 40 minutes.”
Allen and the Utes will have the opportunity to break that losing streak when they face Stanford on Thursday. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. from the Jon M. Huntsman Center and will air on ESPN2
The Cardinal will enter the Huntsman winners of seven of their last eight, and seem to be finding their stride with the improved play of Oscar da Silva and freshman Ziaire Williams.
Da Silva is averaging team-highs of 19.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. But he's been on a tear the past three games by averaging 25 points, 11 rebounds and three assists per game.
Meanwhile Williams, who's averaging 11.6 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, put up a triple-double against Washington two games ago when he finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists and two blocks. Williams' is now living up to the five-star hype he arrived at Stanford with, and has made life easier for da Silva as teams can no longer key on just him.
It'll be no easy task taking down the Pac-12's second place team, but it's an opportunity Allen and head coach Larry Krystkowiak are more than looking forward too. Securing a win over the Cardinal, especially after everything the Utes have gone through this year, is exactly what could turn the season around.
"I don’t know exactly what the good Lord has in mind for us with already a difficult year,” Krystkowiak said. “Maybe two-thirds of our basketball has been really good. A third hasn’t. We come out with four losses and it is going to test our stick-to-itiveness. I think in the cliff notes, or a nutshell of our team at this point, is there are not little things. Every little thing is a big thing.”
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