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Utah basketball notes: Krystkowiak says Van Dyke was 'due'

Utah Utes guard Parker Van Dyke (5) celebrates after making a shot to regain the lead over the Utah Valley Wolverines during the game at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016.
Utah Utes guard Parker Van Dyke (5) celebrates after making a shot to regain the lead over the Utah Valley Wolverines during the game at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016.
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SALT LAKE CITY — Although this season’s version of the Runnin’ Utes had not been in such a tight situation before, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak was pleased with how they performed down the stretch in Tuesday’s 87-80 victory over Utah Valley.

The Utes trailed by three with less than two minutes remaining. They rallied behind 3-point shots from Tyler Rawson and Parker Van Dyke, a layup by Lorenzo Bonam and four free throws in the final 18 seconds by JoJo Zamora.

“We’ve worked on some end of game situations but there’s nothing like doing them when the popcorn’s popping,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak.

The Utes made 15 of 20 free throws in the game and Krystkowiak noted it was huge. Zamora led the charge by making all eight of his attempts.

“I thought the free throws were phenomenal and they oftentimes get overlooked,” he said. “Because if those don’t go in, it changes the complexion of the game.”

As for the late 3-pointers — Rawson’s tied the game with 1:46 to go and Van Dyke’s made it 83-78 with 29 seconds remaining — Krystkowiak noted that the players had been putting up a lot of shots during the week.

Van Dyke’s shot proved especially meaningful.

“It’s funny because when he took that three I had this weird vision because I knew the kid grew up in Salt Lake,” said Krystkowiak, who mentioned that the former East High School star grew up watching the Utes from great courtside seats with his grandpa all his life. “I thought, ‘Man, he’s due.’”

As the ball was in the air, Krystkowiak flashed back to all the times Van Dyke had probably watched other Utah players do the same things.

“It was pretty neat seeing it going in and then watching his excitement level,” said Krystkowiak, who added that Van Dyke earned it because he’s been putting in a lot of time.

Van Dyke, meanwhile, credited Bonam for making a great play.

“He had been attacking all night long. (He) attacked and penetrated and my guy left me open and he made a great pass,” Van Dyke said. “I was ready to shoot it. So just a good, good team play, good team win and it just felt good right when it left my hand.”

FIT AS A FIDDLE: Krystkowiak revealed some big news on his weekly radio show on ESPN 700AM. Krystkowiak told host Bill Riley that he had his thyroid removed last spring because of cancer.

“I let that slip out. I thought about that when I got home,” Krystkowiak said. “I’m like ‘Dang.’ I didn’t want that to be kind of flying under the radar.”

It came in the midst of a conversation about dinner and Krystkowiak said it didn’t really matter what he was eating. Krystkowiak noted that it was delicious because he had not eaten all day — explaining that he was getting a bit chubby since having his thyroid removed because it had cancer in it.

“I forgot I was on the air,” said Krystkowiak, who added that he’s now “fit as a fiddle.”

Krystkowiak didn’t tell the team about it. However, he said that they knew something was going on because he missed a lot of time with medical appointments and such.

The coach then made two points. The first is if you’re going to get cancer you probably want it in your thyroid. The second is there’s not a better place in America to be treated than at the nearby Huntsman Cancer Institute.

“I had a lot of things going in my favor and (I’m) happy to get through it, certainly,” said Krystkowiak, who isn’t taking anything for granted. “So it’s good.”

WAC-KY WOLVERINES: Utah forward Kyle Kuzma had plenty of praise for UVU after Tuesday night’s win over the Wolverines. He likes their chances in the Western Athletic Conference.

“Utah Valley’s a great team and I wouldn’t be surprised if they win the WAC,” Kuzma said.

MOST MEMORABLE: Krystkowiak picked up his 100th win as Utah’s coach in last week’s 92-84 victory over Montana State in the Huntsman Center. A postgame video highlighted some of his triumphs along the way.

Krystkowiak didn’t glance at the tribute until the review was in the 40s. He really appreciated what followed shortly thereafter.

“The one that kind of hit home for me and it will always be a big one was the win (over) Duke when we played a Madison Square Garden,” Krystkowiak said. “I noticed that was No. 77 and seven’s been my lucky number since I was a kid.”

Email: dirk@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @DirkFacer