SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s bid to play its best basketball of the season continues. After a promising incline on a Pac-12 road trip to the Arizona schools, the Utes took a slide with a 67-55 loss at Colorado last Friday.
The loss dropped Utah to 5-6 in Pac-12 play entering Thursday’s game against Stanford (7-4) in the Huntsman Center (6 p.m., FS1).
“I certainly hope we’re not playing our best basketball, or have played it yet. There’s been glimpses of it, you know, at various times — been a little bit of a rollercoaster,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, who explained that he has felt good about a handful of games and very poorly after three games (losses at UCLA, USC and Colorado).
“The course of a season brings you enough challenges and you address things that are broken,” said Krystkowiak, who explained that it’s a balancing act in practice to work on those and then not forget what you take pride in and have done well.
“I’m really optimistic,” Krystkowiak said about the Utes still being able to play their best basketball. “We need some guys to step up. It’s a time to step up.”
Senior guard Justin Bibbins noted that the team mindset is to just keep pushing forward.
“At this time of the season you’ve just got to keep grinding through it,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s going to be whoever is the best team is in March.”
Bibbins added that a season-ending stretch featuring five of seven games at home should help with their confidence.
“At times we’ve played really good basketball. I think the Arizona trip was really good basketball. We had (very good production)production from a lot of guys during that trip,” he said. “But we still haven’t played our true best basketball and I think these next five games at home we need to play our best basketball.“
If the Utes do that, Bibbins added, they’ll click at the right time.
The first step could be a tough one.
Stanford is led by junior forward Reid Travis, who averages 19.5 points and 7.7 rebounds. The Cardinal have other weapons in senior guard Dorian Pickens (15.5 points), senior forward Michael Humphrey (10.9 points, 7.7 rebounds) and freshman guard Daejon Davis (10.4 points, 4.2 assists).
“They’re playing with a lot of confidence,” Krystkowiak said. “They’ve got a nice blend of inside-outside.”
Krystkowiak also mentioned that Stanford is one of the better teams in the conference at getting to the free-throw line and putting heat on your defense. The Cardinal, he explained, also show multiple looks on defensively to keep offenses off balance a little bit.
“So they’re playing well,” Krystkowiak said. “It’s a nice outfit.”
Stanford is coming off a home sweep of the Oregon schools.
EXTRA STUFF: Utah leads the all-time series with Stanford 19-13 but the last 10 meetings have been split 5-5 . . . The late Jon M. Huntsman Sr. will be honored with a pregame video tribute and a moment of silence . . . All fans are encouraged to bring a teddy bear for a halftime toss to benefit patients at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.
Stanford (13-11, 7-4) at Utah (13-9, 5-6)
Thursday, 6 p.m.
Radio: ESPN 700AM