What we can control is the games that lie ahead of us and I think we’re in a good place. We’ve got five at home, four on the road and then the tournament. —Utah coach Larry Krystokowiak
SALT LAKE CITY — After coming up empty in road games at Arizona State, Arizona and Colorado, the Utah Utes return home this week to take on Washington and Washington State.
The Huntsman Center contests usher in the second half of Pac-12 play. The Utes (14-7, 3-6) enter the fracas in a ninth-place tie with Oregon — two games back of a five-team logjam for fourth.
Aside from a nine-point loss at then-No.1 Arizona, Utah’s five other conference losses have come by a combined 15 points.
The Utes, though, aren’t looking back at what might have been.
“We all know the 'woulda, coulda, shoulda.' We could be right up in the thick of things with some plays one way or the other,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “We can’t control that. What we can control is the games that lie ahead of us and I think we’re in a good place. We’ve got five at home, four on the road and then the tournament.”
Krystkowiak readily acknowledges that he’s a glass-is-half-full guy. As such, he’s not openly dwelling on the fact that the Utes haven’t won a road game in more than a year. They’ve lost 11 straight road games overall, including 10 on opposing Pac-12 courts.
“I wish I could come up with something great for you, but it really comes down to making a couple of plays in the road games,” Krystkowiak said, while making note of the narrow setbacks. “It’s right there in front of us. We’ve got a lot of plays that we need to make. We need to gain some confidence. We need to win on the road and kind of get that monkey off our back.”
The Utes, though, have competed in every game and Krystkowiak added that maybe they’re saving some of that magic for the right time — noting that there’s still four road games and the neutral site contests at the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas ahead.
“We can sit here and wallow in pain and think we’re suffering and at the end of the day the wins may not be there,” Krystkowiak said. “But I know that the guys are approaching the game the right way and that they’ll take care of themselves. If you’re going to lose some close games, now is the time to lose them rather than later.”
At the midway mark, home teams have a 37-17 record in conference play. The only teams with a winning road record in Pac-12 contests are Arizona (3-1) and California (3-2). Stanford and UCLA are even at 2-2, while the rest of the schools have losing marks — three have one win (Colorado, Oregon State and Washington) and three are winless (USC, Utah and Washington State).
Utah’s second-half schedule includes roads trips to USC, UCLA, California and Stanford, as well as home games against Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and the Washington schools.
“I’m looking forward to finishing it up here, making some progress, and trying to play our best ball at the right time of the season,” Krystkowiak said. “That’s what I’ve challenged our guys to do and hopefully that’s what we can do.”
The players are determined to make it happen.
“I know we’re going to make some noise,” said sophomore forward Jordan Loveridge. “We’ve learned everything you pretty much can learn with the close games. Every game it’s been something different that’s made us not come out with the win.”
Now the Utes just have to put it all together, he added.
Teammate Delon Wright believes the Utes can win all five remaining home games and also do well in the four road contests that are left to be played.
“I know it’s been tough, but I’m pretty confident we are going to get some of those road wins,” Wright said. “So I think we’ll be able to finish in the middle of the Pac-12 and have some chance to go on to some after-season tournament.”
Pac-12 basketball at the midway mark
Team Home Away Overall
Arizona 5-0 3-1 8-1
California 3-1 3-2 6-3
UCLA 4-1 2-2 6-3
Arizona State 3-1 2-3 5-4
Colorado 4-1 1-3 5-4
Oregon State 4-1 1-3 5-4
Stanford 3-2 2-2 5-4
Washington 4-0 1-4 5-4
Oregon 1-3 2-3 3-6
UTAH 3-1 0-5 3-6
Washington State 2-3 0-4 2-7
USC 1-3 0-5 1-8
Washington (13-9, 5-4) at Utah (14-7, 3-6)
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