Utah basketball: Why are the home teams dominating the Pac-12?
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.”
“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.
Colorado coach Tad Boyle said it’s just tough to win on the road, regardless of conference — noting his time in leagues like the Big Sky, Missouri Valley and SEC.
“You’re in a different environment and you’re not in your same routine. Sometimes close calls don’t go your way,” Boyle said. “You can point to any number of things. There are a lot of different factors that go into winning on the road.”
Boyle, though, did note a common variable.
“I think at the end of the day it comes down to mental toughness, and I think there’s just a handful of teams that are mentally tough enough to go on the road and win on a consistent basis,” he said.
Consistency, in terms of prevailing and not just coming close, is Utah’s obvious aim on the road. The Utes head to Boulder this weekend to take on a Colorado team playing without star Spencer Dinwiddie. The junior guard tore his ACL earlier this month and is out for the season. The Buffaloes (15-6, 4-4) are 1-3 in games without him.
“They’re down a player, their main player, so I think this is a good chance for us to try to steal a game,” Wright said. “We came up short on some other road games so this will be good for us to try to get a win.”
Utah (14-6, 3-5) at Colorado (15-6, 4-4)
Coors Events Center, Boulder
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Radio: 700 AM
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