Utah basketball: Stinging from a blowout loss to rival BYU, Utes brace for instate foe UVU Tuesday at the Huntsman Center
Coach Larry Krystkowiak says abysmal rebounding, poor shooting doomed the Utes in 82-64 loss to Cougars, expects better effort against the 2-3 Wolverines of Utah Valley
University of Utah basketball fans should know that coach Larry Krystkowiak’s wry sense of humor is still intact after the Utes lost 82-64 at rival BYU on Saturday.
“We played so well Saturday night we figured we ought to take Sunday off,” Krystkowiak deadpanned Monday via a Zoom call as the Utes (2-1) prepared to host Utah Valley (2-3) at the Huntsman Center on Tuesday.
Tipoff is at 5 p.m. and the game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.
Seriously, Krystkowiak isn’t ready to hit the panic button on the season. He credited BYU with playing a strong game and getting solid contributions from its bench, while bemoaning the fact that the Utes were out-rebounded 44-28 and missed 18 open shots.
“We might have had the best film session in the time I have been here looking at the game film on Sunday,” he said. “A lot of the things we had breakdowns on, we can fix. … I think our defense is ahead of our offense.”
“We might have had the best film session in the time I have been here looking at the game film on Sunday. A lot of the things we had breakdowns on, we can fix. … I think our defense is ahead of our offense.” — Utah basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak.
It’s early, Krystkowiak pointed out, but rebounding is obviously going to be a focus this week.
It better be, because UVU’s Fardaws Aimaq is one of the top rebounders in the country, averaging 15.6 carom collections a game. The 6-foot-11 center is also averaging 17.2 points per game while shooting 50.7% from the field.
“We are just going to focus on making contact with (Aimaq) and trying to limit him on the boards, especially the offensive boards,” said Utah’s 7-foot center Branden Carlson, the Bingham High product. “We have not been rebounding too well the last few games; We are really focusing on being more physical and rebounding as a team instead of just relying on other people to do it.”
Rebounding “is our deficiency and it is their strength,” Krystkowiak said. “That is certainly a point of attention for us.”
The Wolverines are more like the Utes in terms of having played only five games, wins over Adams State and Westminster and competitive losses to BYU, Wyoming and Southern Utah.
Krystkowiak mentioned the disparity in games played as a factor in the BYU loss, but said it can’t be used as an excuse. Utah had a bunch of games cancelled in November when it withdrew from a tournament in South Dakota and then had the COVID-19 virus sweep through its team.
“We need to play more games,” he said. “I am glad we are getting into game mode.”
The Utes will host Idaho on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Huntsman Center, then are scheduled to play at Arizona State (4-2) on Dec. 22 in their second Pac-12 game. Barring cancellations, the Sun Devils will have played eight games by then.
“I think you reach a certain point with a number of games, maybe it is at that five-game thing, where it is not an excuse any more,” he said. “I think (a bigger gap) is where it still can be a discussion point. But after that I think you are looking for excuses if you are not ready to play.”
Krystkowiak said he’s thought about adding a game after the Christmas break and before Utah plays at UCLA on Dec. 31, but that would cut into his players’ away time and might not be optimal.
“You question how much Christmas time you give them,” he said. “So, the state of our team and the mental welfare and having a few days off I think is really important.”
He’s trying to keep things in perspective in the midst of a global pandemic, he said.
At least, his sense of humor hasn’t gone anywhere.