SALT LAKE CITY — With Saturday’s 60-45 win over Cal, the Utah basketball team improved to 10-1 on the season at the Huntsman Center. It’s the Utes best home mark in four years since they went 16-1 the year they finished 27-9 and made it to the NCAA second round. In subsequent years, the Utes have lost four, three and five games, respectively, at home.
The problem for the Utes, who are 14-9 overall, is the road, where they are just 1-6 this year (they are 3-2 at neutral sites). In Pac-12 play, Utah is 5-1 at home and 0-5 on the road, much different than last year when the Utes actually had a better road record in league play (6-3) than at home (5-4).
It’s a problem the Utes hope to solve this week, but it won’t be easy as they’ll play at Oregon State Thursday night and at Oregon Sunday. The Beavers just beat the Ducks Saturday night in Corvallis 63-53, while the Ducks are the only team to beat Utah at home this year and have a 16-2 record against Utah in nine years of Pac-12 play with only one loss in Eugene.
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak is very aware of the home-road conundrum his team has experienced this year.
“When we’re at home we take a couple of steps forward and when we’re on the road we take a couple of steps backward,” he said. “Obviously if we’re going to get ourselves into the fray, in the mix of things, we’ve got to be able to win some games on the road and be a little more dialed in.”
The Ute coach also talked about the “ebb and flow” of the season, how the Utes fall back in the standings with road losses then jump back with home wins. The Utes went from last to sixth after beating the Washington schools last month and this week, and though they only improved from 10th to 8th, they are just three games out of first place and two games out of second at 5-6 in league play.
“Certainly we’ve got to do a much better job to be relevant for the Pac-12 Tournament seeding,” he said. “I think the big thing for us is to just focus on trying to get better and playing good basketball at the right time of the year and keep addressing some of our shortcomings and playing to our strengths. There’s a lot of different ways to handle it and the key for us is to be more short-term minded and get better.”
Krystkowiak has been generally happy with his team’s defense in recent games and talks about the need for improved offense. They were improved Saturday, shooting 45.3% from the field and only committing nine turnovers after 18 in the previous game against Stanford. He was also happy to see his leading scorer, Timmy Allen, get his shooting touch back with an 8-for-16 field goal performance and a game-high 21 points.
Allen hopes the his success as well as the team’s will carry over this week in Oregon.
“We have a big road trip,” Allen said. “We feel we let Oregon slip away here so we’re looking to get that back.”