Runnin’ Utes Looking to Bounce Back

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Runnin’ Utes Looking to Bounce Back

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Instead of playing a Thursday night game this week, the Runnin’ Utes are back in action on Wednesday as they face the Washington State Cougars on the road in Pullman, Wash.

The Utes are coming off of an 83-82 loss to the UCLA Bruins this past Saturday, so they are hoping to get back on track while competing on the road. The Cougars, on the other hand, are hoping to break a three game losing streak. They most recently dropped a close game to Cal, 58-54.

Although Utah was disappointed with the result of Saturday’s home game, the players have a better understanding of what they need to accomplish moving forward.

The team typically has a game-by-game approach. The players do not like to think about the future too much, but junior Kyle Kuzma notes that an NCAA Tournament appearance is always in the back of their minds. At the same time though, they have to focus on whatever task is directly in front of them if they want to make it to the tournament for the third year in a row.

This week though, Kuzma notes a change in the team’s demeanor in practice.

“We had a great practice [on Monday],” Kuzma said. “We had a lot of enthusiasm, and a lot of confidence. That [UCLA] game gave us a lot of confidence to say that we can hang with anyone in the country.”

Head coach Larry Krystkowiak mentioned that he will expect his team to come in fully prepared — mentally and physically — for anything Washington State will throw its way on Wednesday night.

“I think we’ve got a motivated group that’s going to come in and compete,” Krystkowiak said. “There’s only so many speeches you can come up with, and I’ve always been far more about action rather than words.”

Although Krystkowiak doesn’t like to pat his players on the back, someone who has been impressing him as of late is Devon Daniels.

Daniels has been stepping up on defense for the Runnin’ Utes, and it is why Krystkowiak continues to give him playing time on the floor. He doesn’t always need to be the guy producing points — the Utes have six players averaging double figures — so what he does on the opposite end of the court is beneficial to the entire team.

“Devon’s provided quite a punch for us off the bounce, and in transition,” Krystkowiak said. “[He’s] strong and athletic. [He] was one of the few people Saturday who I thought was really capable of guarding one-on-one. We had a heck of time keeping the ball in front of us, and a lot of guys are getting beat at the point of attack. Devon can guard an awful lot of people.”

If Daniels can keep showcasing his defensive ability, he’ll continue to receive playing time.

Game time is set for 7 p.m. MT, and Kuzma is eager to get back out on the floor.

“We know we need to win these games, and that they are important to us,” Kuzma said. “I’m looking forward to getting away for a little bit.”

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@kbrenneisen