SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak considers moral victories counterproductive — even after narrow losses at Arizona State (55-54 in overtime) and third-ranked Arizona (60-57).
The Utes (8-6, 0-2), he explained, avoid loser talk.
"At the end of the day we were in two close ballgames, obviously, against teams that were 25-2 (combined) up to that point in the season and we were a possession away in each game," Krystkowiak said at his weekly press conference on Monday.
Even so, Krystkowiak acknowledged the team members didn't have a whole lot of life in them on the first segment (Tucson to Phoenix) of their flight back home on Saturday.
"Everybody was still a little bit dazed from what took place or what could have been," Krystkowiak said before noting that things began to pick up on the journey home and have improved since.
"They're a confident group of guys and they know that we're not that far away," he continued. "I think it's natural to maybe have a little bit of a letdown for a day. But certainly with the day off yesterday and school starting today, we're right back in the saddle and going to get after it again."
Krystkowiak and the Utes are determined to keep things in perspective as they pursue the big picture
"You're going to have periods where you take steps forward and steps back but the key is that the graph — the overall line — keeps moving up," Krystkowiak said in reiterating something he brings up often. "We did a lot of good things over the weekend. We have to build on that and keep getting better."
Utah's next opportunities to make progress come Thursday and Saturday when UCLA and USC, respectively, visit the Huntsman Center.
HIGH PRAISE: Arizona coach Sean Miller had kind things to say about the Utes after Saturday's game in Tucson.
"They lost a heartbreaker in Arizona State (and) they played us really tough," Miller said. "They are a much-improved team. They have a lot of new players that are very good."
Miller was especially impressed with Jordan Loveridge, calling the Utah freshman one of the best players on the court.
"In the first half, he was the reason that the game was as close as it was," Miller said. "He carried them in a very big way."
EXTRA STUFF: Utah will wear black uniforms against UCLA. Fans are encouraged to join the "blackout." Those who do will receive special pom-poms. … No. 3 Arizona was the first Associated Press Top 25 team that the Utes have faced since losing to No. 7 San Diego State 64-50 on March 10, 2011. They've now lost nine straight games to ranked teams. … UCLA hasn't played Utah in Salt Lake City since Dec. 29, 1928.
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