SALT LAKE CITY — His season-high rebound count of seven came even before halftime.

But Jazz reserve center Kyrylo Fesenko swears he wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary during that seven-minute stint.

"In the first half," he said with reference to Friday night's loss to Dallas, "every time I went for the ball the ball finds me.

"But I wasn't trying to do nothing, like, different from what I've been doing."

Fesenko played another four minutes in Friday's fourth quarter, but didn't manage any boards during that span.

Saturday, the question of why Fesenko didn't play any more than that after the break — especially after averaging a rebound a minute over seven minutes — was an easy one for coach Jerry Sloan to answer.

"It's a lot of the same stuff that's caused him not to be able to play," Sloan said. "He's got to learn how to make free throws, because they don't care if they foul him.

"And the other thing is to try to be focused on what we're trying to do on the floor, so he can stay out there longer minutes and have more of a chance to have success."

Moreover, Sloan — who did acknowledge that Fesenko "was pretty active" and "went and got the ball" — suggested the big Ukrainian is back to needing to be in better shape.

"He got tired," Sloan said. "That's why we tell them they should be able to play 48 minutes."

Fesenko, for his part, conceded that better free-throw shooting is a must.

He made 1-of-2 from the line Friday, making him just 3-for-15 on the season. That paltry 20-percent proficiency is a full 30 percent lower than the Jazz's next-worst foul shooter, rookie forward Jeremy Evans.

But that, Fesenko volunteered, is only part of the picture.

"Definitely I need to work on my free throws," he said. "But there's no limit. I need to work on my all-around game."

JAW GUARD: Fesenko said Saturday that he, like teammate C.J. Miles and numerous other NBA players, has taken to wearing a mouthguard while playing.

He used one for the first time Friday night.

"Now I'm gonna wear it all the time," said Fesenko, who cited an issue with his jaw as the reason.

BOUNCE BACK: After dealing with woes on the boards for a lengthy stretch earlier this season, the Jazz have out-rebounded their last three straight opponents — including Dallas 43-37 on Friday.

In fact, they're averaging 45.7 boards over those past three games — almost 10 more than in their preceding six games.

What's behind it?

"Concentration is a little bit better for it," Sloan said Friday.

That, and perhaps poor shooting as well.

Utah shot just 39.2 percent from the field Friday — creating countless more rebounding opportunities on the offensive end.

"That's probably helped us a little bit," Sloan said.

BIG FAN: He's in the NBA now.

But Jazz rookie Gordon Hayward intended to be glued to the TV for Saturday's college basketball game between his Butler Bulldogs and the defending NCAA-champion Duke Blue Devils.

That was the plan, even if it was difficult for Hayward to be reminded of how Duke beat him and underdog Butler in last season's national title game.


"I'm rooting for them all the time," Hayward said of his ex-teammates at Butler. "They're my best friends."

Duke beat Butler 82-70 on Saturday.