Utah basketball: Why are the home teams dominating the Pac-12?

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 29 2014 1:50 p.m. MST

Utah's Princeton Onwas (3) collides with teammate Dallin Bachynski, right, after blocking the shot of Arizona State's Shaquielle McKissic, left, during the second half of an NCAA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Tempe, Ariz. Arizona State defeated Utah 79-75. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Ross D. Franklin, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Road wins have become increasing scarce in Pac-12 play. So rare, in fact, that 18 of the last 22 games played have been won by the home team. For the season, visiting squads are 14-30 in conference contests.

“What a fine line it is,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, who noted that one of the breakthroughs was Oregon’s 70-68 overtime win in the Huntsman Center on Jan. 2. He also referenced some close contests on the road that could have gone the other way.

The Utes’ four Pac-12 losses away from home this season — at Washington (59-57), at Washington State (49-46), at Arizona State (79-75) and Arizona (65-56) — have come by a combined 18 points.

Krystkowiak, whose squad visits Colorado on Saturday (Pac-12 Networks, noon), said it’s a credit to the league that so many teams do a nice job of protecting their home courts.

“You have to be significantly better to win on the road,” he added. “The wins are scarce but that’s going to make a difference in terms of which four teams get a bye in Vegas (at the Pac-12 tourney) to start with.”

Although Utah is 3-5 entering the midway point of conference play, Krystkowiak is pleased that the Utes own a win over UCLA and made a good showing at No. 1 Arizona.

“We’ve still got 10 games left to play and call me crazy but I feel really optimistic about where we are and how close we are,” he said.

Even so, Krystkowiak acknowledged that it’s time for the Utes to start acting and doing. Talking doesn’t cut it, especially in the midst of a three-game road swing.

“It’s that part of the year — three really difficult games for us heading out,” Krystkowiak said. “I like the fact that we have a few extra days to prepare.”

After last week’s losses in Arizona last week, Utah is just 1-21 in Pac-12 contests away from home since joining the conference in 2011-12.

Sophomore forward Jordan Loveridge admits it gets frustrating to a point.

“You can only move on to the next one,” he said. “So we’re just trying to get to the next one.”

Loveridge attributes Utah’s recent shortcomings to not finishing.

“The teams that win on the road — the No. 1 team, we just played — they finish games all the way through with rebounding, defense, offense,” he said. “They just do all the little things, through and through.”

Loveridge added that home teams are comfortable and environments are tough for visiting teams, making things difficult all the way around.

However, there’s more to it.

“It’s a lot of little things from the beginning of the game to the end of the game,” said junior guard Delon Wright. “Just like boxing out. Those two points that we don’t box out adds up. So I think we’ve just got to put a complete game together to get these wins.”

Pac-12 teams, though, have performed quite well at home this season. Including non-conference games, Arizona is 14-0 overall in Tucson and California is 10-0 in Berkeley. Arizona State, Colorado, UCLA and Utah only have one loss at home.

Breaking through on the road, obviously, is a tall order.

Since Utah and Colorado joined the Pac-12, only Arizona (12-8), Colorado (13-10) and Oregon (13-10) have winning conference records on the road. Washington (11-11) and UCLA (10-10) are the only other teams not to have losing marks away from home in league games.

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