SALT LAKE CITY — Over their past 10 games, the Utah Utes have recorded a split — winning five straight Pac-12 games at home and losing five consecutive on the road.
After completing a sweep of Washington and Washington State in the Huntsman Center this past week, the Utes have a chance to rectify the latter when they visit USC on Thursday and UCLA on Saturday.
Utah’s road woes have been well-chronicled. It’s been more than a year since the Utes have won a game on an opposing team’s home floor. Overall, they’ve dropped 11 such games in a row and are a paltry 1-22 in Pac-12 road games since joining the conference in 2011-12.
Sophomore guard Brandon Taylor, who led Utah with 16 points in Saturday’s 81-63 win over Washington State, insists the past is the past.
“We just look forward to the future,” he said in looking ahead to the Utes' upcoming games in Los Angeles.
Taylor explained that the Utes are going in with a strong mindset.
“We’ve learned enough lessons, I believe. You know we’ve learned enough lessons to come out successful,” he said. “It’s about going in there and really competing and playing hard — play as hard as you play at home.”
The Utes are 16-1 up on the hill this season. The win total surpasses the total number of victories the team had overall in 2012-13. It also assured the program of its first non-losing season since 2008-09.
“We need to enjoy this one,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, who added that the key now is to put multiple positive performances together away from the Huntsman Center.
“Shots may not fall but that’s how it is on the road,” Taylor said. “But let’s continue playing defense, let’s continue minimizing their runs and stuff like that. We’ll go in there with a strong mindset.”
Although the Utes downplayed the significance of turning the corner in terms of avoiding a losing record for a fifth straight season, Krystkowiak acknowledged that there is some significance to it.
“Sure. There’s no doubt about it. But there’s certain realities built into that,” he said. “I think we’re on schedule and making some good progress and that’s an important thing for us.”
In his tenure as Utah’s coach, the Utes have climbed from a 6-25 mark in his first year to 15-18 last season. Now they have 16 wins with seven regular-season games left to play. Then there’s postseason play, beginning with the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas.
“Kudos to our guys. I think they were ready and we’ve learned some lessons,” Krystkowiak said after the Utes avenged losses to both Washington and Washington State last month on the road. “That’s what a lot of these games are about, is trying to learn some lessons, and I thought we made some progress.”
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