After starting Pac-12 play on a high note with road victories against both Oregon schools, the University of Utah men’s basketball team (10-5 overall, 2-2 Pac-12) lost its spark at home against then-ranked No. 14 Arizona and then-ranked No. 4 Arizona State. Looking to get back on track, the Utes will be in California to face UCLA on Thursday, Jan. 11 and USC on Sunday, Jan. 14.
“I think all hands are on deck for the Bruins,” said head coach Larry Krystkowiak. “We’re just going to try to get ready to find a few chinks in their armor and clean up what we need to clean up and go in there and try to be competitive.”
Krystkowiak said his team would spend time at practice this week trying to fix the issues it has had with rebounding. He has noticed that some Utes are trying to rebound with one hand instead of using both hands.
“We’re going to ask each guy to do a better job of holding up his end of the bargain when it comes to securing some rebounds,” Krystkowiak said. “The mistakes are coming in all shapes and sizes. We tipped a bucket in for Arizona State the other night. [We] had two guys fighting over a defensive rebound and it made them a basket.”
Utah will face a UCLA team that is ranked No. 1 in the conference and No. 8 in the nation in defensive rebounds per game with 29.9. Not only do the Bruins lead the league with 654 total rebounds and 40.88 rebounds per game, but center Thomas Welsh is averaging 11.1 rebounds per game to rank him No. 2 in the conference.
According to Krystkowiak, Utah will be focusing on finding ways to limit UCLA’s opportunities to score come Thursday night. The Bruins’ offense is chuck-full of talent. Krystkowiak specifically mentioned how the bigs are able to shoot from deep, freshman are stepping up, they have one of the top rebounders in the Pac-12 and the guards are skilled and lead by Aaron Holiday, who is having success shooting and dishing out assists. He is averaging 19.4 points per game and 5.3 assists per game to rank him in the top 5 in the conference in both categories.
“It’s just a lot of different weapons and ways that they can hurt you, probably with a little bit more of a perimeter focus than Arizona with the size,” Krystkowiak said.
UCLA is sitting in first place in the league standings, and it comes into the contest having won five of its past six games, while Utah is in 7th place. Despite its struggles this past week at home, forward David Collette believes the team is doing a good job at helping each other not get down on themselves.
“We’ve had some tough losses, but the guys have been really good about it,” Collette said. “Everyone’s been positive and we’ve all been lifting each other up. … When you have good guys that lift each other up it makes it a little bit easier.”
Tipoff at Pauley Pavilion is at 9 p.m.