Utah Utes basketball: Coach Krystkowiak wants his guys to focus, play hard
LOS ANGELES — After acknowledging that the Utes "laid an egg" in Saturday's 62-45 loss at previously winless USC, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak made one thing perfectly clear: there's an open competition for playing time.
"At this point it's kind of an equal opportunity to who wants to come and focus and not turn the ball over and play hard," he said while noting those kind of players are going to have a chance to play.
Krystkowiak proved it when reserves Blake Wilkinson, Alex Mortensen and Kyle Perkins started in the second half. The decision to do so, he explained, was to send a message and shake things up.
Utah trailed 32-14 at the time.
"The second unit kicked the rump of the first unit Friday in practice," Krystkowiak said. "They played really hard. I can tolerate looking at playing hard and just making simple plays."
With Oregon (15-5, 6-2) and Oregon State (13-7, 3-5) visiting the Huntsman Center this week, the Utes (5-16, 2-7) have little time to turn things around after lopsided losses in Los Angeles to UCLA and USC.
"They all hurt," Krystkowiak said of the setbacks. "You just hope for a better effort in games like this."
Krystkowiak noted that it's all about the Utes right now and not who they play.
In the USC game, Utah shot just 36.7 percent from the field and turned the ball over 17 times. Six of the miscues came in a game-opening 13-2 run by the Trojans, who never trailed en route to winning their first Pac-12 game. They also snapped a nine-game losing streak.
"We did a good job defensively," said USC coach Kevin O'Neill. "We forced turnovers that led to easy baskets."
The early outburst left the Utes reeling.
"We should have come out a lot stronger than we did," said junior guard Chris Hines. "They took it right to us and we had no response."
It was a winnable game, he acknowledged, but USC (6-16, 1-8) played well.
Even so, the Utes left their 13th consecutive loss away from the Huntsman Center frustrated.
"We needed to step up to the plate," Hines said.
A lack of energy, though, led to the Utes striking out.
Identifying the problem is one thing, finding a solution for it may be quite another.
"We felt prepared when we got in there. We didn't give the same energy in the game that we did in warm-ups or shoot around this morning," Washburn said. "(We) dug ourselves in that hole and just couldn't come back."
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