SALT LAKE CITY — After attending Pac-12 Media Day in San Francisco, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak was eager to get back for last Friday’s exhibition game against Simon Fraser. So eager, in fact, that he got up at 4 a.m. and caught the first flight back to Salt Lake City.
“I didn’t get much of a nap but it was good. It was a big day,” Krystkowiak said. “Right when I landed at the airport and driving to campus it felt like ‘Hey, this is what we’ve been waiting for — the first game and getting after it a little bit.’ So there was a little adrenalin for all of us, I think. This is what we’ve been working for.”
The Utes went on to defeat Simon Fraser 71-36.
“Overall, the defense was probably the thing I was most encouraged with,” Krystowiak said after Utah held the Canadian squad to 19.4 percent shooting. They open the regular season this Friday (7 p.m.) at home against Willamette.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T: News that Utah was picked to finish a distant last in the Pac-12 media poll wasn’t met with a lot of concern. It is what it is.
“You have to earn your respect. Respect is never given to anybody,” said senior Jarred DuBois, who noted that the team had talked about playing with a chip on its shoulder anyhow. “Whether we were picked first, last whatever, you’ve still got to come out and earn your respect. I think we’re going to do that until the season is over.”
Although DuBois didn’t think the poll results would necessarily help with that, he noted that it was an eye-opener to think that the Utes were picked to be the conference’s worst team.
“So it’s fine. They can . . . ,” he said with a confident smile. “That’s good. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Freshman Jordan Loveridge acknowledged such projections could be beneficial.
“If anything, I think I like it. It pushes us every day,” he said. “People doubt us. We can, I guess, get mad and it’ll motivate us to play harder, play better and know that we’re the underdog every game.”
SWITCHING TEAMS: After playing three seasons and graduating from Loyola Marymount, DuBois made his debut for Utah in the Simon Fraser game. The 6-foot-3 guard finished with 14 points and a team-high eight rebounds.
“It’s not weird but it was definitely different putting on that jersey with the red and white,” DuBois said. “But I’m definitely happy.”
AT THE MEETINGS: Senior center Jason Washburn told reporters at Pac-12 Media Day about his decision to stay with the Utes despite all the roster changes over the past couple of years.
“I believe in Utah. I believe in Coach K. I believe that we’re heading in the right direction. I like my team this year,” Washburn said. “I wanted to finish out my career at Utah because I believe in what Utah has, what it’s been, and what it’s going towards. And I have no regrets about my decision to stay at Utah."