Utah Utes basketball: Mind-boggling losses have happened before

Published: Monday, Nov. 7 2011 8:23 p.m. MST

Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak reacts near the end of the game as the University of Utah faces Adams State College in preseason basketball played in Salt Lake City, Friday, Nov. 4, 2011.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Last week's exhibition loss to Division II Adams State was a bad one, but certainly not the first early-season, head-scratching loss by a Utah basketball team.

It's happened several times over the years to several different coaches. And at least last week's exhibition loss doesn't count in the record books, unlike other early losses.

Ute fans certainly haven't forgotten the 80-79 loss to Southwest Baptist three years ago under coach Jim Boylen. That happened to the same team that went on to win the Mountain West Conference championship and go to the NCAA Tournament.

In 2006, under coach Ray Giacoletti, the Utes lost to Southern Utah 76-73 in the opening game, which set the stage for an 11-19 season.

Back in 1988 when the Utes were picked to win the WAC title under Lynn Archibald, they lost their home opener to Cal State Fullerton 59-57. That was a portent of things to come as the Utes struggled all season and Archibald was fired at the end of the year.

In 1979, Jerry Pimm's Utes lost to someone called Midwestern 70-69 with a team that included two future first-round NBA Draft choices, Tom Chambers and Danny Vranes. The Utes recovered enough to finish 18-10 and tie for second in the WAC.

Rick Majerus didn't have any horrible early-season losses, but he did have a few close calls. In 2000, the Utes barely beat Idaho State in the opener and in Majerus' final season of coaching in 2003-04, his team trailed Georgia State in the opener 33-32 with five minutes left before rallying for a victory behind future No. 1 NBA pick Andrew Bogut.

This isn't to say that the Utes are going to go on to have a great season or a poor season with new coaches and an almost brand-new team. Sometimes these early-season losses just happen.

Just look at Arizona, which lost to Division II Seattle Pacific 10 days ago and West Virginia, which lost to Division II Northern Kentucky last week.

STILL 0-0: Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak insists his team treated Friday's exhibition game like any other game. In fact, Krystkowiak said he didn't even know the game wouldn't count on the team's official record this year.

"I didn't know that it wouldn't say 1-0 or 0-1," he said. "I never paid much attention to that. The way I looked at it, it was on our schedule. We didn't play any less or more hard than we would have at any other time. It's nice to know I haven't lost a game yet."

3 ISSUES: After looking at the tape of the game and mulling it over all weekend, Krystkowiak said there were three main issues that caused the Utes to lose Friday night — turnovers, transition baskets and rebounding.

"It was pretty easy to see why we shot ourselves in the foot," he said. "We had 19 turnovers and 17 of them were steals. We've got to take much better care of the ball. We're going to have more of a defensive transition focus. And we shouldn't be getting outrebounded by that team. That's one of the other big focuses for us, making sure we're more physical with five guys who are going to rebound defensively."

SIMPLIFY: Krystkowiak also put some of the blame for the loss on himself.

"A lot of it is on me," he said. "We ran 20 plays and ran them very marginally. Now we're going to have about six plays and make sure we run them real well. We're trying to simplify some stuff. We'll get better."

U. NOTES: Utah's first official game is Monday night against San Diego Christian College. It is an NAIA school that lost to Cal-Irvine last week 84-63. The Hawks, who made the NAIA Final Four in 2001 and were 8-22 last year, will play three more games before Monday. … The Utes have no timetable for the return of David Foster and Chris Hines, who were injured in Friday's game. Foster was at practice with a walking boot on his foot. Hines injured his ribs in the game. Also Javon Dawson is out after suffering a concussion in practice last week. … Krystkowiak said the Utes "may" have some players redshirt this year, but it's less because of all the injuries. … After playing the home opener Monday, the Utes head right out on the road for a game at Boise State Wednesday, followed by another home game Saturday night against Montana State.

email: sor@desnews.com

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