SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak insists there’s no revenge in college basketball. It’s all about trying to win the next game.
“That’s all we’re thinking about,” he said as the Utes prepare to face Washington Thursday night in the Huntsman Center.
Utah dropped a 59-57 decision to the Huskies in Seattle on Jan. 8. It opened a Northwest road swing that concluded with a 49-46 loss at Washington State.
“We were really bad offensively in both of those games. Some of the credit needs to go to their team for defending and the energy that they had,” said Krystkowiak, who added that the Utes were sluggish and didn’t execute well. “We kind of went through the motions with a lot of things and put ourselves in a bad way, kind of brought the headache on ourselves.”
Since then, however, Krystkowiak noted that they’ve gotten better offensively.
“We haven’t made the plays when we need to and knock some things down,” Krystkowiak said. “So I think it’s fair to say, for everybody, you play with more confidence and energy when you’re at home. That’s why it’s so hard to win on the road.”
Thursday’s game will be Utah’s first at the Huntsman Center since a 74-69 upset of 25th-ranked UCLA on Jan. 18.
Washington (13-9, 5-4) is expected to provide quite a challenge. The Huskies, who are led by former Pleasant Grove High School star C.J. Wilcox (19.8 ppg), have an effective offense and a defensive scheme that switches things up.
The Utes, though, have a developing weapon to counter the versatility in junior college transfer Delon Wright. The guard is coming off a 17-point, 11-assist and seven-steal performance in Saturday’s 79-75 overtime loss at Colorado.
“If you look across our stat sheet he’s leading us in a lot of different categories. I hate to think about where we’d be without him right now. He’s been a catalyst,” Krystkowiak said. “I think his leadership qualities are improving and guys are comfortable being around him.”
As the new guy in the mix this season, Krystkowiak noted that it’s taken Wright a little time to evolve into a leadership role on the floor.
“He’s gained some confidence and we’ve got a lot of confidence in him,” said Krystkowiak, who added that you can never get complacent or think you’ve arrived. “I don’t think he’s done that. So there are things that he can do better to help us win some of these games, as is the case with everybody else.”
Wright acknowledges feeling more comfortable as the season progresses. He’s trying to be one of the team leaders, not so much vocally but more by example. The junior heeds the advice of his high school coach who told him if did a lot of different things on the court then it would be tough to ever have an off-night.
As the season winds down, Wright is determined to help the Utes avoid any such outings. Utah is 14-1 at home entering this week’s contests against Washington and Washington State. Looking ahead, the Utes will seek their first road wins of the season on a trip to USC and UCLA.
“If we get these two games we’ll be back on track,” Wright said. “Then going into the Los Angeles games it’ll be another big opportunity for us.”
Washington (13-9, 5-4) at Utah (14-7, 3-6)
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