I’m just excited that we have them in our house. I think that makes it, I guess, easier for us. I’m just ready, you know, I think this is a great opportunity. —Utah freshman Devon Daniels
SALT LAKE CITY — For the first time since 2010-11, the Utah Utes have back-to-back games against ranked teams in the Huntsman Center. They take on No. 25 USC (15-2, 2-2) Thursday and No. 4 UCLA (16-1, 3-1) Saturday.
“Both of those squads are playing really, really well — a lot of firepower, offensive firepower and elite athletes being coached well,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, who acknowledged it's pretty rare having two teams of that caliber coming to town the same weekend.
During the final season of the ill-fated Jim Boylen era, the Utes hosted No. 6 San Diego State on a Saturday and No. 11 BYU the following Tuesday. They lost both games, falling 71-62 to the Aztecs and 104-79 to the Cougars.
The upcoming Pac-12 contests could be just as challenging.
“I’m just excited that we have them in our house. I think that makes it, I guess, easier for us,” said freshman Devon Daniels. “I’m just ready, you know, I think this is a great opportunity.”
COACH K’S BACK: After his back locked up late in Saturday’s 88-82 win at Arizona State, Krystkowiak received medical treatment that allowed him to accompany the team back to Salt Lake City. Continued therapy and improvement has followed.
On Tuesday, Krystkowiak said his back was “OK” and better than it was on the flight back home. Even so, he acknowledged he's “still not out of the woods.”
However, Krystkowiak doesn’t think it will affect his ability to coach the team.
“No. I’m just kind of walking around a little gingerly,” he said. “But I’ve got some good treatments and stuff coming up here, getting some easy exercise, trying to do some stretching and hopefully can avoid any problems for the sideline.”
EXTRA STUFF: USC has five players scoring in double-figures — Jordan McLaughlin (14.5 ppg), Elijah Stewart (13.9 ppg), Chimezie Metu (13.4 ppg), Bennie Boatwright (10.8 ppg) and De’Anthony Melton (10.2 ppg). The Trojans are coming off a 74-73 loss at home to California on Sunday. Utah has seven straight wins over USC.
No. 25 USC (15-2, 2-2)
at Utah (11-4, 2-1)
Thursday, 7 p.m.
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Radio: ESPN 700AM