Branden Carlson leads surprising Utah against Oregon State

Branden Carlson continues to raise his game level while becoming a symbol of Utah improvement.

The above-average Utes are second in the Pac-12 as they begin a crucial two-game swing in the Pacific Northwest, beginning with a game Thursday night against Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore.

Utah (14-7, 7-3 Pac-12) should be 10th in the 12-team conference but flies high at the league halfway point, chasing its first 20-win season since the 2017-18 season.

Carlson leads the charge with best team averages of 17.1 points and 7.6 rebounds. He also has a team-high of 46 blocked shots.

Carlson was named Pac-12 Player of the Week after averaging 26.5 points, eight rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 1.5 steals in home wins against Washington State and Washington last week. He made 21 of 29 shots, a scintillating 72.4 percent, and hit 4 of 6 from 3-point range.

Overall, Carlson has 20 or more points in three straight games, with his most recent solid performance being 25 points in the Utes’ 86-61 loss to Washington on Saturday.

“If we play at this level and play for each other like that, great things will happen for us,” Carlson said after the win.

Carlson had 27 points and 11 rebounds on Jan. 5 as the Utes recorded a 79-60 home win over Oregon State.

The Beavers (8-12, 2-7) ended some rough patches as they picked up a 68-48 win at Cal on Sunday.

Oregon State had lost six straight games overall and 25 straight games on the street or neutral courts, beginning with a loss to Houston in the Elite Eight of the 2021 NCAA tournament.

The good news is the Beavers are 7-3 at home this season. They’ve also traditionally covered Utah at the Gill Coliseum, winning 14 of the 17 meetings.

Against Cal, Jordan Pope scored 19 points and Dexter Akanno added 16 for Oregon State. The Beavers knocked down a season-high 13 3-pointers — their best performance since sinking 16 against Missouri State in the 2018-19 season.

Pope, who is averaging a team-high 12.4 points, was thrilled with a win that was Oregon State’s first since the 57-52 win over Denver on Dec. 21.

“It means a lot, not just because it’s our first road win of the year and our first win of 2023,” Pope said on the school’s Postgame radio show. “It was a great comeback from our loss (on Thursday) at Stanford and everyone contributed well and played a big role.”

Utah has won the last two meetings after Oregon State prevailed in each of the previous five matchups.

Utah ends its journey with a Saturday game against Oregon in Eugene. Oregon State will host Colorado on Saturday.

– Field level media

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