Utah Utes basketball: Utes plan to simplify offense, see the big picture

Published: Monday, Jan. 14 2013 11:55 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — After close Pac-12 losses to Arizona State, Arizona and UCLA, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak acknowledged the focus was on small things that didn’t get done.

Things were different, however, following the Utes’ 76-59 loss to USC.

“I found myself going home Saturday night and I was thinking more about big-picture things,” said Krystkowiak, who plans to simplify things on offense as Utah prepares for this week’s games at Washington State and Washington.

Krystkowiak is hopeful that altering how the Utes finish things off will lead to increased confidence. The plan is to free up the players' minds and have them go out and make some plays on offense.

“At the end of the day it comes down to us making plays and scoring the basketball,” said Utah center Jason Washburn. “So whatever he puts in we’ll learn and as players we have to go execute it and make it work.”

INDIVIDUAL MEETINGS: Krystkowiak said the 10-minute meetings he planned to have with each player have been stretched a bit longer. He’s confident they’ll all be complete by Tuesday.

“I think it’s important that we communicate and everybody gets a chance to come in individually,” said Krystkowiak, who noted that the meetings will include an opportunity for the players to offer suggestions and feature input from the coaching staff. “We’ve got a couple of months and some change to get busy and start thinking about more action and less talking. So we just wanted to give that opportunity.”

The overall theme, he added, is just making sure the lines of communication are open. After the meetings, though, it’s all about action, not talk.

“We just don’t have that much time with the window in the season for us to be guessing any more (about) what each other is thinking,” Krystkowiak said.

STRONGER STARTS: The Rocky Balboa approach isn’t working out so well for the Utes, who have dropped four straight games.

“Sometimes I think we’re coming out and we get punched in the mouth first and it takes us a little while to wake up,” Krystkowiak said of the mindset the Utes seem to have coming out of the locker room.

It was one of the main topics of discussion at a players-only meeting before the USC game. Washburn said they refer to it as “getting punked.”

Despite the discussion, it happened again Saturday afternoon.

“It’s frustrating and it takes the wind out of your sails when you know what the problem is and you still let it happen,” Washburn said. “I guess it’s insane when you think about it.”

Delivering the first punch, he added, is more than just scoring. It also involves defense and toughness plays.

“There’s nothing more to talk about any more,” Washburn said. “The five guys who start the game set the tone. That’s how athletics work.”

O’NEILL FIRED: USC fired head coach Kevin O’Neill Monday, just two days after he guided the Trojans past the Utes in the Huntsman Center.

“I’m a long way from L.A. to be able to comment on what’s going on there,” Krystkowiak said. “From a coaching point of view, it’s unfortunate. But I don’t think you’re ever really shocked when things go on because there’s a lot that goes into a decision like that.”

O’Neill was 48-65 at USC, including a 7-10 mark this season.

EXTRA STUFF: Guard Aaron Dotson, who didn’t play in the USC game, is considered day-to-day with a sore knee. … Utah leads the Pac-12 with only 9.2 turnovers per game. … The Utes are sixth in the nation in opponents' field goal percentage (.365) and 12th in assisted basket percentage (.640). … Utah’s home game against Oregon State on March 7 will now tip off at 7 instead of 9 p.m.

* * * * *

Utah (8-8, 0-4) at Washington State (9-7, 0-3)

Beasley Coliseum — Pullman, Wash.

Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Radio: ESPN 700AM

Email: dirk@desnews.com

Twitter: @DirkFacer

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