SALT LAKE CITY — Utah missed the mark often in a 71-63 loss at Colorado on Saturday. The Utes were just 24 of 61 from the field (39.3 percent), including a paltry 5 of 26 (19.2 percent) from 3-point range. The accuracy, or lack thereof, was well below season averages of 46.6 percent from the floor and 39.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Despite the slide, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak is steadfast in his backing of the team as the Utes prepare for Thursday’s home game against USC (8 p.m. FS1).
“We trust our guys. We’re one of the better shooting teams in our conference,” Krystkowiak said. “There’s no reason to be shy and timid and not confident at this point in the year. We need guys to jump and knock them down.”
There’s an extreme urgency to do so. It’s the final week of Pac-12 play and the Utes (15-13, 9-7) are in a third-place tie with Oregon State and UCLA. The top four teams earn first-round byes in the conference tournament. The madness of March is alive and well. So, too, is the need to shore some things up.
“You watch college games this time of year and there’s some teams that really get after it and keep competing,” Krystkowiak said. “One of the biggest deficiencies I think we have is finishing plays — and it’s on both sides of the ball.”
Krystkowiak added that they’ve got to have five guys who are connected. He noted the team’s mantra of playing hard, playing smart and playing together.
“Oftentimes, if you can check two of those three boxes, you get a ‘W,’” Krystkowiak explained.
Victories over USC and UCLA on Saturday would assure Utah of a first-round bye next week in Las Vegas. Any other scenario requires some sort of help.
The first step comes against a USC squad that Utah defeated 77-70 earlier this season in Los Angeles. The Trojans (15-14, 8-8) are still in mathematical contention to earn a tournament bye.
“It’s USC. It’s what you would expect (from) a team coming in here,” Krystkowiak said. “We’ll have our hands full.”7 comments on this story
The Trojans are led by senior forward Bennie Boatwright (18.5 points), junior forward Nick Rakocevic (9.3 rebounds) and junior guard Derrick Thornton (4.7 assists).
“They’ve got some guys that have been there a while,” Krystkowiak said.
EXTRA STUFF: Utah leads the all-time series with USC 23-19, including a 12-6 advantage in Salt Lake City . . . The Trojans lead the Pac-12 in 3-point shooting (38.2 percent) and assists (16.8 per game) . . . USC has made 62 3-point shots over the past five games.
USC (15-14, 8-8) at Utah (15-13, 9-7)
Thursday, 8 p.m.
Radio: ESPN 700AM