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Utes bounced back after learning a lesson

Southern California's Katin Reinhardt, center, and Utah's Jordan Loveridge, right, fight for a loose ball as Southern California's Elijah Stewart watches during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP P
Southern California's Katin Reinhardt, center, and Utah's Jordan Loveridge, right, fight for a loose ball as Southern California's Elijah Stewart watches during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong, AP

SALT LAKE CITY — Before leaving Los Angeles, Utah basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak reflected on the road trip that resulted in a 69-59 loss to UCLA and a 67-39 victory over USC.

“The big lesson, I think, was from Thursday night where we can’t just show up. We’ve got to be on edge to be competitive and reach some of the goals maybe that we’d set for our team,” Krystkowiak said. “You’re going to have a little bit of a target on your back with our record and some of that stuff.”

Krystkowiak added it’s all about being “in the moment” and that’s probably the biggest thing for the Utes.

“We’ve got to be ready right from the beginning in some hostile environments to perform,” he continued.

Utah trailed for more than 28 minutes at UCLA. Against USC, the Utes were never at a disadvantage.

In the setback, Krystkowiak said they didn’t play hard enough or smart enough to prevail. Offensive ineptitude — he noted four open shots (two at the rim, two on the perimeter) and then two turnovers to open the second half — wound up putting a lot of strain on the defense in the loss to the Bruins.

“When you can’t make open shots when they present themselves on the road and you turn it over 14-16 times, that was a really bad combination,” Krystkowiak said.

The Utes (17-4, 7-2), who are 13th in this week's Associated Press rankings, shored things up against the Trojans. They scored 12 more points in the paint and upped their second-chance points by 11.

One of the key factors in that regard was center Jakob Poeltl. After making all four of his shots from the field on Thursday, there was a more concerted effort to get the 7-foot freshman the ball on Sunday. He was 6-of-7 from the field and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds (four offensive) — despite playing on a less-than-healthy ankle.

“I really feel bad for Jakob. He’s been grinding ever since the Arizona game to get back on track. He hasn’t been 100 percent,” Krystkowiak said. “He’ll take a few practices off and then try to practice and (Saturday) it blew up again after practice.”

Go figure.

“It’s a little mystery with the swelling, but he’s getting closer to 100 percent. Hopefully this week will be a good opportunity, maybe, without playing until Saturday, to get some of that inflammation out of there and get him back,” Krystkowiak said. “When he can get going full speed, I think it changes our team dramatically, and we’ve been missing that a little bit.”

Email: dirk@desnews.com

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