PROVO — After pressing for last season’s interruption of the hotly contested series with BYU, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak isn’t expecting a red carpet to be rolled out Saturday night at the Marriott Center when the rivalry resumes.
And he doesn’t care.
“It doesn’t really matter to me. I’m not too concerned about that. I’m worried about focusing on what I can control,” Krystkowiak said. “I’m sure it’s not going to be warm and fuzzy and flowers and chocolates.”
Krystkowiak is much more interested in leaving with a victory. He said the Cougars have a “heck of a team” at 8-2 and a lot of different weapons, adding that they are a super dangerous opponent.
“It’s going to be a heck of an environment to set foot in for a couple of hours on Saturday night,” Krystkowiak said.
The Utes (7-2) are looking forward to it.
“It won’t be a warm welcome. I’m sure,” said junior guard Parker Van Dyke. “That’s how it always is. That’s what the rivalry is all about. We’re going in there just trying to win a basketball game and stuff. There will be some high emotions in the Marriott Center, but I’m excited for it.”
So, too, is senior guard Justin Bibbins.
“I’m excited,” said the graduate transfer from Long Beach State. “I played BYU my freshman year, my first game in college. I know their crowd is crazy for Long Beach, so I’m excited to see what they are for Utah.”
Senior forward David Collette, a Utah State transfer, is also eager for his one and only Rivalry Game.
“It’s going to be tough. I mean, they’ve got a good crowd. It’s going to be loud in there,” he said. “We are going to have to execute with no mistakes really.”
In last week’s 77-67 win over Utah State in the Beehive Classic at Vivint Arena, Krystkowiak said the Utes did a lot of real positive things. Most notably, a game-opening stretch where they jumped out to a 19-2 lead. Krystkowiak credited the Utes' defense for making things happen. The starters, he noted, allowed just 0.39 points per possession in the game. In praising the performance, Krystwkowiak joked that it must be some kind of record.
“We had a group that was pretty dialed in,” Krystkowiak said.
As far as things to work on, Krystkowiak acknowledged that the Utes found out that it’s hard to protect a 20-point lead.
“We got a little bit sloppy with the game and those proverbial three- to four-minute stretches that we’ve seen rear their heads,” he explained. “They’ve cost us in some losses and they’ve made some other games a little more interesting.”
Those segments are being broken down, Krystkowiak said, to figure out what needs to be improved upon to prevent such lapses from happening.
Being out-rebounded 35-31 and pulling down just two rebounds on the offensive end didn’t sit well with Krystkowiak, who pointed out that the Aggies were a smaller team than the Utes.
“But for the most part, short of some foul trouble, we did what it took to get the win,” Krystkowiak said. “But we’ve got to be a lot better.”
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Cougars, Utes on the air
at BYU (8-2)
Saturday, 9 p.m.
Radio: 1160 AM and 700 AM