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Utah Utes basketball: No moral victory for Utes

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 11 2012 7:30 a.m. MST

Utah Utes guard Jarred DuBois (5) and Utah Utes forward Renan Lenz (10) fight with Brigham Young Cougars forward Nate Austin (33) for the ball in Provo Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak discounted any sort of moral victory in Saturday’s 61-58 loss at BYU. Although pleased with his team’s energy and the way they battled, the outcome hurts because the Utes were right there.

“Just like always, you just go back to the drawing board and try to get better,” Krystkowiak said at his weekly press conference on Monday. “There’s a couple of elements that I think we really need to get better at.”

Krystkowiak noted that the Utes gave up too many offensive rebounds, especially in the decisive second half. BYU pulled down nine after the break. Another issue down the stretch was Utah’s zone offense. The Cougars’ defensive switch caused the Utes some problems. Their shooting percentage dropped from 46.4 percent in the first half to 25 percent in the second. Points in the paint dropped from 22 to 4.

The learning experience against a zone defense, Krystkowiak added, will be a big focus this week as Utah prepares for upcoming games against SMU (Dec. 18) and Cal State Northridge (Dec. 21).

Even though the Utes didn’t make a shot from the field over the final 7:05 minutes against BYU, Krystkowiak said the eight misses overshadowed some positives like making 6-of-7 foul shots during that stretch and the defense that was played to keep them in the game.

“I thought our resilience was pretty good throughout,” Krystkowiak said. “Maybe the game needed to be about five minutes shorter, or maybe we needed five more minutes. I don’t know.”

At 6-3 overall (already matching last season’s overall win total), the Utes embark upon finals week up on the hill. They’ll take two full days off to catch their breath and heal some bumps and bruises.

“They’ve got some games this week they’re just in the classroom,” said Krystkowiak, who is planning an intrasquad scrimmage on Thursday or Friday to break things up a bit.

With the season approximately one-third over, Krystkowiak appreciates the progress he has seen.

“I’m pleased with our team,” he said. “We’re real competitive in practice. We’ve got a couple of guys at every position.”

The depth, he continued, could lead to more guys getting playing time and shorter rotations. Confidence, on the other hand, is getting bigger after the wins over Texas State and Boise State, plus the strong showing at BYU.

“We’re always going to have a little bit of an edge to us to where we’re the underdog,” Krystkowiak said. “But I think there’s a little bit of internal swagger and confidence knowing that we’ve got enough talent to do it if we can put some of it together.”

Email: dirk@desnews.com Twitter: @DirkFacer

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