Pullman, Wash. • Utes senior wing Gabe Bealer didn’t play in the second half Thursday night against Washington. Junior guard Parker Van Dyke played a combined 39 minutes in the previous week’s two games.
But both Bealer and Van Dyke played critical roles in the Utes setting up a pair of big games this week against UCLA and USC by sweeping Washington and Washington State on the road over the weekend.
The Utes (17-9, 9-6 Pac-12) played Saturday without sophomore center Jayce Johnson (foot), and junior guard Sedrick Barefield played six minutes after feeling pain in his ribs during warmups. Barefield came into the night as the team’s third-leading scorer, and Johnson ranked second in both rebounds and blocks.
“We got two guys that have been playing an integral part in our success out, and to not have them on the road, it means a lot to our team to have those guys [fill in],” Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak said after Saturday night’s win over the Cougars. “Gabe stepped up, Kolbe [Caldwell] gave us some nice minutes. We didn’t go deep into the bench, but we needed every minute of it.”
Van Dyke started both games and posted season highs for points (10), rebounds (four) and minutes (37) in a win against Washington that boosted the Utes’ NCAA Tournament prospects. He scored six points and dished out five assists in 36 minutes with Barefield sidelined Saturday night.
“Me personally, I prepare like I’m going to play 40 [minutes] every night,” Van Dyke said. “Mentally, physically, I make sure I’m dialed into the game plan because you never know when your number is going to get called. You know, we’re warming up and Sedrick just tweaks something and is not good enough to play, then my number gets called to play a lot.
“That’s the strength of our team. One man goes down, other guys step up. Gabe and Kolbe Caldwell did a great job filling in that spot. That’s just what a good team is.”
Van Dyke’s playing time has fluctuated during conference play. He played a total of 24 minutes in the first three Pac-12 games, but he’s also played 30 minutes or more three times. Van Dyke’s steady-but-not-flashy play provides a solid option off the bench for a Utes squad light on experience in the backcourt behind senior Justin Bibbins and Barefield.
Bealer also has seen ebbs and flows in his playing time. He didn’t play in the second half against Washington, then responded with 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting from behind the 3-point line in 32 minutes against Washington State.
“I just go out there and let it fly,” Bealer said about his different roles. “I just go out there and hoop. I try not to think too much because I know when I start thinking, I start making mistakes and stuff starts going wrong for me and I get yanked. I just go out there and just hoop.”
Bealer made half of the Utes’ shots from behind the 3-point arc on Saturday, and each of those were critical on a night when the Washington State defense crowded the paint and collapsed on senior David Collette, who entered the game averaging 17.7 points per game in his previous three games.
“We really do have a good group of guys, good group of teammates,” senior forward Tyler Rawson said. “We all know that it may not be our night one night, but all our guys are ready to go when their name is called. [Saturday] was a great example. When you have Jayce and Sed down and they were ready to go. That’s kind of been the motto all year, next guy up.”