Utah Utes basketball: Battlin' Utes want effort to continue
TUCSON, Ariz. — Although the Utah Utes left Arizona and Arizona State without a victory, they didn't exactly come up empty handed. They battled to the end in both games.
"We fought twice on somebody else's homecourt," Utah center Jason Washburn said while noting that the Utes' reputation of laying down on the road this season was non-existent on this trip. "That didn't happen either game and you've got to congratulate the effort of my guys."
Even so, the 57-52 setback at ASU and the 70-61 loss at Arizona did extend Utah's lengthy skid away from the Huntsman Center. The Utes have lost 15 consecutive games, dating to back to last season, outside of Salt Lake City.
The good news, however, is a three-game homestand begins Saturday (3 p.m., FSN) against Colorado. Stanford and California come to town the following week.
"We're getting better. We know what it takes to win," Washburn said. "Now we've got a Colorado team coming in that we feel we owe something to. They, for a lack of a better term, just embarrassed us on their home floor."
The Buffaloes (17-8, 9-4) walloped the Utes (5-20, 2-11) in Boulder, 73-33, on Dec. 31.
"We have a whole week to prepare," Washburn continued. "We've got to get a game plan, we've got to settle into it and we've got to come out with the same effort (as the Arizona trip), if not more, Saturday."
Utah showed plenty of resolve against the Sun Devils and Wildcats, taking both games down to the wire — rallying both times. On Saturday, the Utes held their first halftime lead on the road this season (33-25). They also responded to a 15-0 run by Arizona in the second half. Utah reeled off eight straight points to reclaim the lead entering the final 10 minutes.
"At the beginning of the season we would have shut it down," said Utah swingman Cedric Martin. "But you don't see that anymore."
Martin left the McKale Center encouraged — even though he felt the Utes gave Saturday's game away, getting outscored 12-0 over the final 5:42.
"Mentally, I feel good. I'm happy," Martin said. "I'm happy about the whole weekend even though we didn't get a win. We played really hard physically."
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said being in two games down the stretch on the road was a little bit of unchartered territory for the Utes.
"It just kind of magnifies the importance of making plays at that point," he said before looking ahead at the schedule. "We've got five games and then the tournament and I'm hoping we'll be able to put some of these lessons to good use.
"Hopefully, we can show more signs of improvement," Krystkowiak added.
NOTES: Several Utes had career-highs against Arizona — Martin (7 assists, 3 steals), Dijon Farr (11 rebounds) and Washburn (3 assists) . . . Utah went 17-for-18 from the free-throw line on the Arizona trip . . . The Utes held three 13-point leads on the Wildcats, their largest advantage on the road this season.
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