After a challenging road trip where the University of Utah men’s basketball team lost to UCLA and USC, the team is looking to get its first Pac-12 home win under its belt this week. The last time the Utes were in the Huntsman Center, they fell to two then-ranked top-15 teams, Arizona and Arizona State.
Donnie Tillman believes in order for the Runnin’ Utes to put an end to their four-game losing streak, they need to refocus.
“[We need to] take these next two days of practice really serious,” Tillman said. “Find out how to defend the 3-point line better [and] rebound.”
Despite the situation that Utah is in, it’s not getting down on itself. According to Tillman, the spirits in the locker room are still positive and the team is confident in its ability to get back on track.
“We’re all like, ‘It’s just a slump right now,’” Tillman said. “I’m very confident heading forward. I think we’re going to get better. It’s just a down moment.”
Head coach Larry Krystkowiak said Sunday games themselves are challenging in and of themselves and that people need a day off. For him, that seventh day of the week is what day he has always known to be a rest from work, but the Utes are currently heading towards their fourth Sunday night of action — their second Sunday game at home — against Washington State.
“I love what I do — our kids love being a part of it, but they don’t get a day off when they come back,” Krystkowiak said. “Their Monday might be a day off from practice … but they’ve got school.”
Krystkowiak would like to see something where only a certain amount, he suggested two games, of Sunday contests in a row are allowed to be played.
“I think a person would say, ‘Man, five days in Southern California, what are you complaining about?’ [But] it’s hard,” Krystkowiak said. “It’s hard to keep a group of young men collected and together and minds on basketball when you’re [there] Wednesday through Sunday.”
After this weekend, the Utes do not have any more Sunday games scheduled for the remainder of the season.
Becoming more physically and mentally tough is something Krystkowiak and Tillman said the Utes need to work on.
“There’s plenty we can do to garner a little bit of that,” Krystkowiak said. “I feel like I can coach that a little bit.”
Tillman said Utah needs to work as a collective group because if one person isn’t working, the entire machine won’t function. Krystkowiak, on the other hand, compared toughness to leadership. He said there’s never satisfaction with either of the two because there is always more to give. From rebounding to passing, Krystkowiak wants to see more intention, urgency and effort put into each play.
“That’s a skill within the game of basketball … to have a little bit of an edge to you,” Krystkowiak said. “That’s a really valuable thing in the game of college basketball, so hopefully we can stir some of it up.”