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Utah basketball: Utes come up short on the road again

PROVO — Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak smirked after walking past the BYU student section and to his team’s bench at the Marriott Center. Krystkowiak, who opted to pull the Utes out of a scheduled game here last year for a “cooling-off period” following recent incidents in the rivalry, received a lot of jeers from the crowd.

Krystkowiak was booed loudly during pregame introductions and was the target of group chants like “80 K” and “That’s not safe,” referring to the cancellation fee he paid and reasons he gave for putting things on hold.

Decked out in a red sport coat, Krystkowiak weathered it well. What he couldn’t control, however, was a decisive run the Cougars rained down on the Utes in the first half.

It proved decisive as BYU went on to defeat Utah 77-65 late Saturday night.

Leading 13-11, the Cougars reeled off 10 straight points to net some breathing room. The burst took less than two minutes to complete and was exactly what Krystkowiak hoped to avoid going into the game. Such runs proved costly in losses to UNLV in Las Vegas and at Butler.

“At the end of the day we just need to be a lot more fundamentally sound and tougher to eliminate those bad stretches,” Krystkowiak said earlier in the week.

Krystkowiak added that the Utes needed to have some maturity and playmaking ability to put an end to such things and not let them magnify.

Although Utah managed to cut what had been a 13-point deficit down to five on two occasions, the Utes could draw no closer — despite a strong start to the second half.

"I thought the guys responded, played some 'D,' got some stops," Krystkowiak said. ". . . And then had three straight turnovers."

Krystkowiak noted that it's pretty simple when coming into an environment like the Marriott Center against a quality team like BYU.

"You've got to be a lot more dialed in," he said. "You've got to make more plays."

In preparing for the game, Krystkowiak explained that there's very little margin for error in trying to beat a good team on the road.

“Seldom do teams beat themselves at home," he said. "You’ve got a little momentum, you’ve got some energy with the crowd.”

In a typical game, he continued, there are anywhere from five to seven things that are points of emphasis that you must be solid at.

“You can’t bat .200 on those things and expect to come out of there with a win,” Krystkowiak said. “You kind of get what you deserve. You’ve got to be really good in a lot of different facets of the game.”

On Saturday, BYU prevailed on several pivotal fronts. The Cougars shot a better percentage than the Utes (51.9-46.4), made more 3-pointers (10-5) and outrebounded them (33-28).