“Call me crazy, but I feel really optimistic about where we are and how close we are,” said head coach Larry Krystkowiak.
The Pac-12 teams haven’t been very courteous hosts this year, and conference road victories are becoming as rare as finding a good parking spot on campus. Through the first three weekends of league games, only two teams, Arizona (2-0) and California (3-2), have winning road records.
There have been 44 conference games played this season, and 30 of those have been won by the home team. To help put things in perspective, look at the season Washington is having. The Huskies currently sit fourth in the conference but are just 1-3 on the road. So in reality, the Utes aren’t in horrible shape when it comes to the standings, even if their current ninth place spot says otherwise.
“I think it’s a credit to the league, where teams do a good job protecting their home court,” Krystkowiak said.
Be it the unfamiliarity of the arena, the student sections or any other possible reason, it’s clear Pac-12 road victories will be hard to come by.
“All the fans support all the way around. You go into Arizona, you come here, everyone has their fan base,” said forward Jordan Loveridge. “Everyone is so used to playing in their arena, so everyone has so much confidence playing there.”
On the road, the Utes have appeared to be a totally different team at times than the one that has filled the Huntsman and excited a fan base. Even with a lost identity on the road, Utah has contended in each of their road games, having chances to win four of them in the game’s final moments.
“It’s a lot of little things from the beginning of the game to the end of the game,” said guard Delon Wright. “Like boxing out, those two that we don’t box out, it adds up, so we just have to put complete games together to get some wins.”
Against Arizona, the Utes went cold on the offensive end and were unable to keep undefeated Arizona from running away with it at the end. The complete game is something the team has been searching for.
Krystkowiak said the team has gotten lost looking at the big picture at times, mentioning games where his team has performed well offensively but not defensively and vice-versa. Instead of looking at it as a team issue, he is beginning to see it as an individual problem.
Utah will be looking for their offensive-minded players to buy into playing hard defense and their defensive stalwarts to develop more skill on the offensive end.
The Utes may be singing a positive tune now, but that will soon change if they don’t start picking up wins, and the team is aware of that.
“All the talk and feel-good stuff only goes so far,” Krystkowiak said. “Now it’s time to get after them in practice and start expecting more and demanding more of our guys. Talk is cheap — we have to start acting and doing it.”