Inside the huddle: Utes look to fix sloppy play before Pac-12 tournament

_DSC5564 Emily Juchau

After the regular season finale against Colorado, head coach Larry Krystkowiak was proud of the way his team stepped up to dig itself out of a 14-point hole to win 57-55. But looking back, he sees a mistake-filled game and thinks the Utes are lucky they were able to pull out a win.

“We weren’t very good,” Krystkowiak said. “We really dodged a bullet. We’re going to have a pretty good film session and a little reminder of some of the simple things that we decided we weren’t going to do on Saturday night that almost cost us the game.”

Krystkowiak thinks the team struggled the most with its offense because there were too many guys not dialed in when they needed to be. The team shot just 31 percent from the floor and 19 percent from three-point range. While defense was the biggest reason the Utes ended up on top, the kind of offense they displayed on Saturday isn’t going to cut it during the Pac-12 tournament this weekend.

After going through the film, Krystkowiak was easily able to pinpoint 15 plays where his team wasn’t really playing together.

“I thought we were horrendous when it came to our execution,” Krystkowiak said. “We either didn’t have all five guys functioning together with the right timing, missed some screens, turned it over, took an ill-advised shot and it was a combination of a variety of different ways that you can be ineffective on offense.”

Although Krystkowiak wasn’t able to find many silver linings on offense, it’s better that the Utes know now what they need to work on instead of having these mistakes come up when it really starts to count.

Fans send the seniors off in the right way

Coming back from a double-digit deficit late in the second half is no easy task, but the support of the fans made it easier for the Utes to get back into the game. Krystkowiak is sure that without the fans they wouldn’t have won.

It was when the Utes were going on a 19-0 run that the crowd made the most impact and was standing on its feet, eager to see the team defeat the odds.

“I don’t know that we win either game [Arizona or Colorado] without that type of momentum and home court advantage,” Krystkowiak said. “We didn’t give the fans much to cheer about for 32 minutes, but there was something special in that building when we started making some plays and started coming back.”

When the team was in the locker room after the game, all the players mentioned how great the atmosphere was in the Huntsman Center. Krystkowiak wasn’t even paying too much attention to the noise during the game, but after talking to a few people and watching film he could tell how much of a difference it made.

“It’s really neat for our seniors to be able to have that memory and have that ringing in their ears for the rest of their lives,” Krystkowiak said.

Looking ahead to the Pac-12 tournament

With the Utes finishing in second in the Pac-12, they’ve earned a first-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament and will play on Thursday against the winner of the UCLA/USC game the night prior. Since the team has recently played both schools, it feels a little more confident facing either one of them heading into the postseason.

However, with Utah’s spot basically secured in the NCAA tournament, USC and UCLA are schools on the outside looking in, fighting for a chance to extend their seasons. They have a lot on the line when they play in Las Vegas, and Krystkowiak hopes his team will be ready to take on either opponent.

“We’re only going to be as good as our next game, and our guys understand that,” Krystkowiak said. “We’ll dial it in and watch a little more tape since we last played them and have a plan for both opponents.”