When tough games come knocking at your door you can either stand up to them or you can fade away from them. I think this team has done a great job all year of standing up in big games. It seems to be that way. —Jason Washburn
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said his team is past consolation prizes and moral victories. As such, he didn’t dwell on what could have been in Sunday’s 68-64 loss to ninth-ranked Arizona in the Huntsman Center.
The Utes rallied from 13 points down in the second half to tie things up before coming up short in the end.
“We’ll just learn from it and move on down here with the final five games,” Krystkowiak said.
Before heading to next month’s Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas, the Utes (11-14, 3-10) close out the regular season with three consecutive games on the road, followed by home contests against Oregon State and Oregon.
The journey begins Thursday at Colorado. Utah visits California and Stanford the following week.
“I’m not thinking at all about three on the road,” Krystkowiak said. “I’m thinking about one on the road at Colorado Thursday in front of a real hostile environment against a good team.”
Krystkowiak insists there’s no confusion about Utah’s approach. It’s all about the next game. More specifically, it’s all about the next four-minute segment of play.
Even so, Krystkowiak acknowledged that road games at Colorado, California and Stanford will be extremely challenging as the Utes jockey for the best seed possible at the conference tournament.
“We’ve got our hands full,” he said. “Those are three teams that are in the upper half of our league.”
Such contests, though, have often brought out the best in Utah. The Utes pushed Arizona to the limit twice this season, losing two games by a combined seven points.
“When tough games come knocking at your door you can either stand up to them or you can fade away from them,” said senior center Jason Washburn. “I think this team has done a great job all year of standing up in big games. It seems to be that way.”
Thursday’s game in Boulder has a few variables that may add to the degree of difficulty. The Buffaloes (17-8, 7-6) are coming off a buzzer-beating 63-62 overtime loss at home to Arizona State on Saturday. Then there’s the 58-55 setback they suffered in Salt Lake City on Feb. 2.
Utah’s first stop on the three-game trip, thus, is laced with subplots. The stops at California and Stanford will also be challenging. Both teams won at Utah in late January.
“It is what it is. We’ve got three straight on the road,” said Washburn, who noted the variables associated with each game — the revenge factor with Colorado and the home losses to the Bay Area teams. “So we’re going to have to be ready. I think this team has grown a lot since those games (against Cal and Stanford). I think this team will be prepared.”
Utah (11-14, 3-10) at Colorado (17-8, 7-6)
Coors Events Center, Boulder
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