Coming off a win against Washington, the Runnin’ Utes are looking to take care of business against Washington State on Sunday afternoon.
The first time the Cougars and Utes played, Utah came out on top 92-71, but Washington State is hungry for a win. The Cougars are currently riding a 10-game losing streak, dropping their most recent game to Colorado on Thursday in double overtime. While they don’t look like much of a threat on paper, Brandon Taylor isn’t taking anything for granted.
He watched Washington State’s game on Thursday night and thinks that even though the Cougars lost, they’re much improved from the first time they played the Utes. Both teams have had to go through some rough patches, but both are powering through, in Taylor’s opinion, so he hopes the Utes will be ready for anything.
“Their resume may not look like it, or their record may not look like it, but they’re playing better,” Taylor said. “One thing with us is you got to move forward, and I’m pretty sure they’re moving forward. We’re watching how they’re playing — they get dialed in defensively and offensively.”
Utah is working on its defense and what it can do to stop Washington State’s top scorer. Josh Hawkinson is averaging 16 points per game, so Utah is hoping to force him to pass the ball.
“One thing we’re focusing on is really being defensively sound,” Taylor said.
Aside from what the Utes can do to stall Washington State’s offense, they’re putting just as much effort into working on their offense and overall execution. Head coach Larry Krystkowiak needs his entire team to do a better job of taking care of the ball.
Wednesday night, the team committed 17 turnovers, 12 of which came in the first half. Krystkowiak does not have time to sugarcoat anything, so he needs everyone to come prepared and focused to play against the Cougars.
“It’s not a real sensitive time,” Krystkowiak said. “We’ve learned all our mistakes. Everyone knows all our cards are on the table, and if we want to accomplish some goals we’re going to have to tighten it up.”
Last time out on the court, Utah shot 67.3 percent from the floor, and the team will be looking to its big man to lead the way.
Jakob Poeltl continues to dominate the paint, and when opponents throw a double team at him, he looks for an open teammate to score. Something else he has been working on is not fouling.
There have been plenty of instances this season where Poeltl has found himself in early foul trouble and he has been forced to take a seat on the bench. Although he has improved from last season, other teams know to immediately attack the key when he isn’t there. Poeltl recognizes this but is positive he’ll be able to stay aggressive without fouling against Washington State.
“I think I am just playing smarter this year than I was last year,” Poeltl said. “I think I know when I need to risk a foul or basically just let them score because I was late in rotations just so I don’t get my third or fourth foul in the second half.”
Game starts at 3 p.m.