Utah Utes basketball: Utes hoping to bounce back in Pac-12 home opener

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 4 2012 5:00 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Utes can only hope that the object in their rearview mirror isn't as close as it may appear.

Last Saturday's 73-33 loss to Colorado is something they would just as soon not revisit.

"Obviously it was embarrassing, especially when we went in there feeling confident. We had a really good, solid week of practice," said junior center Jason Washburn. "All week we were talking about how we wanted to start the Pac-12 off right and we did the exact opposite."

The Utes, he added, simply can't afford another poor performance like that.

"We've got to put it behind us because in the Pac-12 you don't have time to wallow in self pity," Washburn explained. "We've got Washington State and Washington coming in here this week. We've got to have all our focus on that if we want to win."

And that, noted senior guard Josh Watkins, is exactly what the Utes are doing. The lopsided loss to the Buffaloes is behind them. Watkins chalks it up as a "learning experience" and vows the Utes will be ready to get the bitter taste out of their mouth when they meet again later in the season.

Until then, there's always a task at hand.

"We've just got to move on to the next game," Watkins said.

It's a transition that has pleased head coach Larry Krystkowiak.

"I think we've moved on pretty well, actually. It's been a couple of our best practices of the year. Guys are dialed in, we're working and everybody's focused," Krystkowiak said. "It feels really good. It's been competitive. We didn't take a step back. We lost the game (to Colorado), but we didn't take a step back after the game."

While noting it's not an "ifs and buts were candy and nuts kind of deal," Krystkowiak said things were better than the score indicated in terms of defense early on. The Utes, though, couldn't sustain the defensive energy when they struggled to make shots on the other end. That's when the Buffaloes' stampede started.

"We've got a lot of things to work on," Krystkowiak said. "But I don't think our guys have lost hope."

Krystkowiak certainly hasn't. Besides drawing inspiration from how Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers turned things around and eventually won an NBA championship, he also has the support of Don Meyer — a Utah assistant from 1970-72 who went on to win 923 games over head coaching stints at three different colleges.

Meyer recently came to town for a couple of days and helped Krystkowiak put things in perspective. So, too, have e-mails that followed the visit. Meyer's words of encouragement, Krystkowiak noted, have been really good.

"You just need to stay positive. It will make me a better coach. At the end of the day, it's going to make me a better coach getting through it," Krystkowiak said of Utah's 3-10 start to the season. "We've just got to keep plugging along. We're preaching that to our players, so we better be able to practice what we preach as coaches."

Rebuilding a once-storied program hasn't been easy, especially at Utah where there were very few pieces in place.

"I wasn't sure it was going to be this challenging but it is what it is," Krystkowiak said. "It's been a daunting task, but I know it's making us all stronger."

So, too, is focusing on the present and not looking ahead to the future.

"We've got to get the most out of what we have," Krystkowiak said. "That's been real important to me."

So, too, is instilling discipline — particularly in the area of time management. Four straight team functions in Colorado were disrupted by tardiness, although Krystkowiak insists the ship hasn't sunk and there are no major issues.

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