We were looking for a home-and-home against a top level team. —Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak
SALT LAKE CITY — The first leg of Utah’s home-and-home series with SMU is set for Wednesday at Moody Coliseum in Dallas. The Utes (4-1) and Mustangs (6-1) will play again Dec. 18 at the Huntsman Center.
“We wanted to get a home-and-home, specifically, with somebody to kind of simulate our conference season,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “Where we had an opportunity to play and then maybe take a few weeks' break and get back and see what we can do the second time around.”
And as it turned out, Krystkowiak said, Utah and SMU were both looking for games and had similarities coming into new situations. The Mustangs are in their first year under Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown.
“We were looking for a home-and-home against a top level team,” Krystkowiak said, adding that SMU has a lot of weapons and is an aggressive squad that rebounds well and has a knack for getting to the free-throw line.
The trip to Texas is Utah’s first venture outside of town since the summer tour of Brazil. Krystkowiak is looking forward to it, explaining that it’ll aid in team building and foster a growing family atmosphere within the program. The Utes will visit Texas State on Friday before returning home to face Boise State. On Dec. 8, they’ll play at BYU.
“The price of poker is going up here when we go out on the road, and the schedule continues to get more and more challenging as we move forward,” Krystkowiak said.
Utah is riding a three-game winning streak. The Utes swept through their Thanksgiving tournament with victories over Idaho State (57-46), Central Michigan (67-51) and Wright State (66-54). Krystkowiak was especially pleased that the wins came against three different styles of play over a four-day period.
“It exposed us to a lot of different things,” he said.
RESPECT FOR BROWN: SMU is Brown’s 14th head coaching post. Previous stints include 10 jobs in pro basketball (Carolina Cougars, Denver Nuggets, New Jersey Nets, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks and Charlotte Bobcats), as well as three college stops (Davidson, UCLA and Kansas).
Krystkowiak has known the Hall of Famer for quite a while and is looking forward to Wednesday’s game.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for him,” Krystkowiak said. “I think coaching against him is going to be a heckuva challenge.
CANADIAN COLT: Sophomore center Dallin Bachynski, a 7-footer from Calgary, is off and running — leading the Utes with 13.2 points and nine rebounds per game.
Krystkowiak is pleased with the energy Bachynski brings to the game, but added that some mistakes are being made defensively.
“It’s kind of like having one of those young horses that’s ready to run. You’ve got to start plugging in some of the mental aspects to it and know when to slow down,” Krystkowiak said. “That’s where we are right now, maybe curbing some of that enthusiasm from him. (But) I think from a coaching perspective he’s everything that we want.”
SUCESSFUL SWITCH: Senior guard Jarred DuBois, a graduate student who transferred from Loyola Marymount, is making an immediate impact at Utah. He’s averaging 12 points, 4.3 rebounds and four assists since switching schools.
“It was different putting on a University of Utah jersey, but I’m happy, happy that I’m doing it,” said DuBois, who added that the transition has been smooth. “It’s not weird. I think every day is a new challenge. So whether I was still at LMU or not, I would look at every day as a new opportunity to get better and improve.”
EXTRA STUFF: Utah has won all three previous meetings with SMU. The Utes lead the Pac-12 in scoring defense, holding opponents to 54.4 points per game. Offensively, they lead the conference with 49.4 percent shooting from the field. Kansas State transfer Nick Russell leads SMU with 16 points per game.
Utah (4-1) at SMU (6-1)
Moody Coliseum, Dallas
Wednesday, 6 p.m. MST
Radio: ESPN 700AM