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Utah basketball: Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak vows Utes will keep moving forward

Published: Monday, Feb. 3 2014 8:18 p.m. MST

Head coach Larry Krystkowiak of the Utah Utes celebrates after his team defeats UCLA in NCAA basketball in Salt Lake City, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — While watching the Super Bowl on Sunday, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak reflected on Vince Lombardi’s famous “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” quote. He heard it during the broadcast.

“It kind of hit me and it’s like you know there’s a lot of other things that are important besides winning,” Krystkowiak said after making it clear that he takes getting wins real serious and doesn’t want to downplay it. “We’re still in the early stages with this program to where our hope was to win more games by now, but we’ve learned how to compete. We should have the confidence that we can beat anybody. I’m confident that the wins are going to come.”

Utah’s seven losses this season have come by a combined 26 points, nine in the loss to then No. 1–ranked Arizona in Tucson. The setbacks have the Utes sitting at 14-7 overall and 3-6 in Pac-12 play entering this week’s home games against Washington and Washington State.

“There’s a lot of suffering and people that are in bad shape in the world and at the end of the day it still is a game,” Krystkowiak continued. “And it’s about trying to help some of these young kids grow up and become men and get a degree. So it’s a little more encompassing than maybe just some of the wins and losses.”

Even so, Krystkowiak acknowledged that it stings everyone associated with the team that the Utes are not 6-3, 5-4 or whatever you name it.

“But we’re keeping it in perspective and we’re not going to change the way we’re approaching many things,” he explained. “We’ll just keep moving on and hopefully, like I’ve said, some of that magic is going to come in our favor down the stretch.”

LOCAL DAWG: Thursday’s game in the Huntsman Center will be the Utah finale for former Pleasant Grove High School star C.J. Wilcox. The Washington senior, a 6-foot-5 guard, leads the Huskies in scoring with 19.8 points per game — second-best in the Pac-12.

Krystkowiak said Wilcox is probably the best shooter in the league.

“They do a lot of things to get him some open looks. He’s a guy you can’t leave open,” Krystkowiak noted. “I think being a Utah kid, here originally, and having some of that background adds to the storyline. He’s going to want to play better. But we should have a lot of pride too in the fact that we’ve got some things that we’re trying to protect here at home.”

Wilcox scored 14 points in Washington’s 59-57 win over the Utes in Seattle on Jan. 8.

“He’s a good kid. He’s a leader for their team,” Krystkowiak said. “He means a lot to them and I think we’ll probably be seeing him play at the next level. I think he has what it takes to be an NBA guard.”

NO THANKS: After arriving late to Krystkowiak’s weekly press conference, a reporter offered to make up for it by running stairs in the Huntsman Center.

The coach declined.

“I wouldn’t want to have to call an ambulance,” Krystkowiak deadpanned.

TOUGH TIME: Sophomore forward Jordan Loveridge is in a bit of a slide as of late. Over losses at Arizona and Colorado, he’s made just 6 of 25 shots from the field — scoring a combined 17 points over the setbacks.

Teammate Delon Wright, meanwhile, had 36 points in the stretch and has surpassed Loveridge as the team’s scoring leader by a 16.1-to-16.0 points-per-game average.

Krystkowiak explained that it isn’t easy dealing with some success and adversity. Loveridge, he added, has maybe had some pressure put on him as well.

“It’s a process, you know, and it’s part of becoming a sophomore. He’s gone through some things as a freshman. Life’s not supposed to be without some challenges,” Krystkowiak said. “There’s a lot of ups and downs and he’s probably not the most confident guy and hasn’t been dazzling anybody lately.”

Krystkowiak insists there’s a silver lining.

“That’s the great thing about sports,” he said in noting that the Utes have a number of games left. “You look at guys in baseball and hitting slumps. It’s natural and it’s normal to have some ebb and flow in it.”

Timing, though, is important.

“If we’re going to have a guy dealing with maybe a little bit of a drought and trying to find his way, I want it to be now and not here this next month,” Krystkowiak said.

EXTRA STUFF: Utah is fifth in the nation in field goal percentage. The Utes are shooting 50 percent from the field. ... Wright is the Pac-12’s second-best shooter, connecting on 59.2 percent of his shots. ... Utah is still seeking the 1,700th win in program history.

Email: dirk@desnews.com

Twitter: @DirkFacer

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