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Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Arizona State Sun Devils guard Luguentz Dort (0) pulls in a rebound above Utah Utes guard Parker Van Dyke (5) at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019.

SALT LAKE CITY – The one consistent thing about the Utah basketball team this season has been its inconsistency.

From one game to the next, from one half to the next, from one minute to the next, the Utes have been all over the place.

Over the first 17 games of the season, the Utes couldn’t put more than two wins together, or two losses for that matter, until they won a pair of games at Stanford and Cal to increase their winning streak to four.

That was followed by two disappointing losses at home to Oregon and Oregon State. Then just when you thought the Utes were in trouble they went on the road and defeated USC and UCLA.

That brought them to this past weekend, where they kept their winning ways going with a solid win over Arizona on Thursday, only to see it fall to pieces in a loss to Arizona State Saturday.

In the latter game not much went well as the Utes played poor defense, giving up 54.0 percent shooting, turning the ball over too much (13 turnovers), losing the rebound battle 35-29 and shooting poorly from the free throw line (63.9 percent).

Coach Larry Krystkowiak and his players are still baffled by the inconsistency 25 games into the schedule.

When Parker Van Dyke, who tied for high scoring honors Saturday with 17 points after scoring 23 on Thursday, was asked if he knew the reasons for the inconsistency, he threw it back to the media, saying, “I was hoping you guys did.”

Van Dyke went on to say, “We know what we need to be successful and just need to do it. We need to be more consistent taking care of the ball. We’ve proven when we take care of the ball we can score pretty easily on anyone.

The Utes are starting three freshmen in Timmy Allen, Riley Battin and Both Gach, along with senior Sedric Barefield and junior Jayce Johnson. However, Krystkowiak says he’s past using the team’s youth and inexperience as an excuse.

“I think that excuse is out the window,” he said. “I think we understand what it takes. There’s plenty of things for different reasons, things that rear their head to keep us from playing two good halves of basketball.”

After playing well for the final three fourths of Thursday’s game, Krystkowiak said his team “only had about one quarter we were worth a darn” in Saturday’s loss. He reeled off several things that has led to the inconsistency.

“It seems to be a different storyline,” he said. “Turnovers are always an element, toughness, (poor) rebounding has gotten us in some games. Missing free throws, making less than two out of three . . . it’s not like one theme overall. Our young kids are getting better, but there are plenty of times our older kids are inconsistent as well.”

Instead of solidifying their hold on second place in the Pac-12 heading into a pair of games in Washington this week, the Utes fell back into a tie for third place at 8-5 with the Sun Devils, just behind Oregon State.

The Utes play at first-place Washington (11-1) Wednesday night (9 p.m. MT) and then play Washington State, which has been one of the hottest teams in the league over the past couple of weeks with road wins at Arizona State and Arizona and a two-point loss to Washington Saturday night.

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“It’s got to be 40 minutes,” said Van Dyke. “Both Washington and Washington State are playing really good and for us to get those wins on the road, we’ve got to come out ready to play.”

Utah is hoping to stay in the top four of the conference so it can get a first-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament, like it has for the past four seasons. To do so, the Utes likely need to win three of their last five games, which includes a road game at Colorado (March 2) and home games against USC and UCLA (March 7 and 9). The Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas will be March 13-16.