SALT LAKE CITY — On Friday, the Utah Utes are going to give home away from home a try by staying in a hotel the night before a game against Arizona State in the Huntsman Center. In fact, that’s the weekend plan for the last two homestands of the season.
For whatever reason, the Utes are more successful away from the cozy confines of home when it comes to Pac-12 play. They’re 5-1 on the road and just 2-3 up on the hill.
“I can’t necessarily put my finger on it,” acknowledged Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak.
After completing a sweep of the California schools with a 93-92 win over UCLA over the weekend, the Utes (13-10, 7-4) enter a season-ending stretch that includes four home games and three away.
“We’re going to need to do a heck of a lot better job protecting our home court,” Krystkowiak said. “There’s no doubt about it.”
Utah’s first opportunity to do so comes Thursday (7 p.m., ESPNU) against Arizona. Senior guard Parker Van Dyke, who hit the game-winning 3-point shot in the victory at UCLA, said the Utes need to approach every game as underdogs. They already kind of have that approach, he explained, and need to bring a road mentality where there is nothing to lose to the home games.
“I think your mental approach really transitions to how well you play physically sometimes, and I think we haven’t had the best mental approach going into the last few home games,” Van Dyke said. “So hopefully we can change that with a couple more good days of practice and be ready for Thursday.”
On Monday, Krystkowiak said the team spoke about there not being anything magical concerning success at home, especially when it comes to the Pac-12. Road teams are 30-36 in conference play, including an 8-4 mark last week.
“It’s kind of a little something that’s in the air in our conference right now. Teams know they can go out on the road and compete with some of the parity that we have,” Krystkowiak said. “And we’ve just got to get dialed in and try to find that sense of urgency and a little bit more grit at home and hopefully give the crowd something to get jacked up about.”
On the road, Krystkowiak noted, the Utes spend a lot of time together. They eat well and they sleep well.
“I don’t think we’ve got guys that are making bad decisions at home and doing things that they shouldn’t be doing,” he said. “But we just seem to come together and we kind of grind and play (on the road).”
It may take that kind of effort to end a two-game skid at home. Utah is 1-13 against Arizona since joining the Pac-12 in 2011-12.
“There’s been a lot of close games,” Krystkowiak said. “But we’ve just never been able to get any kind of momentum.”
The Utes dropped an 84-81 overtime decision to the Wildcats Jan. 5 in Tucson. They lost by one point at the McKale Center in 2018.
“They’re always a good team,” Van Dyke said. “They’re always tough to beat.”
This Arizona squad, though, is in the midst of a five-game losing streak. The Wildcats (14-10, 5-6) were swept at home last week — losing to Washington (67-60) and Washington State (69-55). Prior to that, they dropped road games at USC (80-57), UCLA (90-69) and Arizona State (95-88).5 comments on this story
EXTRA STUFF: The Arizona Daily Star reports that freshman guard Brandon Williams, who leads the Wildcats with 3.7 assists per game, will not play against the Utes. He has missed the past three games with a knee injury. … Sophomore guard Brandon Randolph tops Arizona with 14.1 points. Junior center Chase Jeter averages 7.0 rebounds. … The Wildcats hold a 34-29 lead in the all-time series, but the Utes have a 20-11 edge at home.
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Arizona (14-10, 5-6)
at Utah (13-10, 7-4)
Thursday, 7 p.m.
Radio: ESPN 700AM