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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Men’s Basketball: Runnin’ Utes Looking to Start Better Against Washington State

Utah+gaurd+Lorenzo+Bonam+%2815%29+driving+the+lane+at+the+Jon+M.+Huntsman+Center+on+Sunday%2C+Jan+17%2C+2016.+Photo+by+Chris+Ayers.
Christopher Ayers
Utah gaurd Lorenzo Bonam (15) driving the lane at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on Sunday, Jan 17, 2016. Photo by Chris Ayers.

The Runnin’ Utes are back on the road this week and will face Washington State on Thursday night. Utah is coming off a close win over Oregon State and hopes to get back-to-back wins for the first time this year in conference play.

With the team having a 2-3 Pac-12 record, the players are hoping to continue on the right track. For that to happen, they need to come out with more energy. In both Pac-12 wins this season, the games came down to the closing minutes — or the closing seconds — against Colorado. Head coach Larry Krystkowiak wants to see his team value every opportunity it has with the ball on offense.

“Every possession is important, and the first possession is just as important as the last, and we got to get focused on that,” Krystkowiak said.

He needs his players to be locked in the entire game, and to do so, they will need to keep momentum on their side.

The Utes cannot afford to dig themselves into another hole, Krystkowiak said, because while they were able to come back against both Oregon State and Colorado, it’s a lot of unnecessary work.

“I get concerned with putting ourselves in that position too many times,” Krystkowiak said. “Everyone wants to remember the end of basketball games, but there’s plenty of plays early on that we need to start making improvement.”

One specific aspect in which the coaching staff would like to see some improvement is the middle-range game. Instead of taking it to the hole for a contested shot or settling for a three-pointer, Krystkowiak thinks Utah would benefit more from seeing what else is there to take. Against Oregon State, the Utes were 5-of-21 from beyond the arc, and this isn’t cutting it for anyone on the team.

While Krystkowiak pointed out what the team could improve on from an offensive standpoint, Brandon Taylor thinks it is going to come down to the team’s defense.

In practice this week, the team has put more of an emphasis on how to stop the opposing team’s offense. By doing so, Taylor thinks their own defense will translate to a more controlled offense.

“Whatever you do in practice most likely you’re going to do in the game,” Taylor said. “If we start on a good note in practice, we’re going to hopefully start on a good note in the game.”

Although the team is playing away from the Huntsman Center, Taylor recognizes how important it is that the team goes into the game just as they would any other night. Only this weekend, they won’t be able to rely on the crowd for support.

But in the end, he still thinks the team will have no problem against the Cougars.

“How you get up is how you get up for each and every game,” Taylor said. “You should have the same mindset whether it’s a home game or an away game. I think what will help us out is starting out the game a little bit stronger than we have been.”

Krystkowiak views this weekend as another opportunity to learn, but at the same time he hopes the team won’t have too much to correct afterwards, especially after they lost to Oregon by nearly 20 points last week at home.

“We’re going to head out on the road and see if we can get some things fixed,” Krystkowiak said. “You hope that at this point in the season you can start putting all those things together and not making those same mistakes, so I don’t think we’re going to be in harm’s way with taking anybody lightly after experiencing what we did on Thursday night.”

Game time is at 8 p.m. PT.

[email protected]

@kbrenneisen

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