SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said he was thinking about it while sitting in the hotel before Saturday's game at Washington. Krystkowiak was pondering a simplified approach to help his team to victory over the heavily favored Huskies.
The answer he came up with proved to be quite successful. Utah came out determined and it showed. The Utes never trailed en route to a 74-65 victory over Washington at Alaska Airlines Arena.
"Sometimes you're looking at the big picture and the result," Krystkowiak said, "instead of thinking (of) what happens along the way."
In other words, every possession matters.
That's the message Krystkowiak presented to his team. He told them to go out like it was game point from the first possession on.
"I just assured the guys that you tally up all those points over the course of the game and that's how you have the winner," Krystkowiak said. "I think it helped our guys to think about that on a possession-by-possession basis instead of 'Oh gosh, we need a win' and kind of forgetting about what it takes to get that win."
It worked. Utah jumped out to a 12-2 lead in the first five minutes en route to securing the program's first Pac-12 road victory.
"All the early possessions are important," said senior Cedric Martin. "We fought to stay up the whole game and I think that's what made us successful."
Senior center Jason Washburn, who paced the opening outburst with his scoring, rebounding and defense, acknowledged that the Utes had been thinking about games as a whole and how to win them.
"We weren't really thinking that this one possession could mean more to us down the road," Washburn said in discussing the change of mindset. "I think all the talk (Krystkowiak) did about it before that game really helped us visualize each possession as more than just a little thing."
Washburn credited the focus on each possession individually for Utah's hot start and game-long lead.
HISTORIC WIN: Utah's first conference road win since a 62-60 buzzer-beating win at New Mexico on Feb. 19, 2011, was obviously well received by the Utes. Their enjoyment, however, was somewhat short-lived.
"It was really gratifying, but having said that we're on to the next one Thursday night," Krystkowiak said as the Utes prepared for Thursday night's home game against California. "But it was some good medicine. It felt good for all of us to kind of validate some of our efforts."
At Monday's press conference in the Huntsman Center, Washburn gave thought to the task ahead.
"I think the enjoyment is over," he deadpanned. "Practice starts in 20 minutes."
BROTHERLY LOVE: Krystkowiak's older brother, Bernie, sent him a text giving him a hard time because of his repeated use of "the sun keeps coming up" after close losses. After beating Washington, though, Bernie sent his sibling a similar text — with a twist.
It read: "The sun did come up this morning, but it felt a little bit brighter than it usually was."
REUNION, OF SORTS: Krystkowiak downplayed this week's matchup with California coach Mike Montgomery. They go way back. Montgomery coached Krystkowiak at Montana from 1982-86.
"It's a cool opportunity to get together with him," Krystkowiak said before noting that both coaches are fighting and scratching for wins right now so there hasn't been a lot of communication.
The Utes are 9-9 overall and 1-5 in Pac-12 play, while the Golden Bears are 10-7 and 2-3.
"They've been beat up (and) had some injury issues," Krystkowiak said. "I don't think things have gone — for either of us — the way we would have liked. We're both a little bit on edge."
Krystkowiak admitted he hasn't thought a whole lot about the impending reunion.
"It's just kind of an opportunity to say hi to him before and after the game. But beyond that it's become a little bit more business," he said. "We enjoy each other's company in the offseason and when we're at these coaches meetings and stuff. But once the season's on, there's not a whole lot of excitement or extra friendship about it."
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