Tucson, Ariz. • Officially, Utah is 0-2 in the Pac-12 Conference and in desperate need of a league win this week against either UCLA or USC.
That doesn’t mean the road trip through Arizona is completely lost for the Utes.
Coach Larry Krystkowiak’s crew returns to Salt Lake City as a confident bunch, and one that thinks they allowed the opportunity for two wins to get away from them against Arizona State and Arizona.
Utah forced the Sun Devils into overtime and had the ball with a chance to pull off a victory on the final possession. Against the No. 3 Wildcats, the Utes had a chance to take a lead in the final 15 seconds and a chance to tie at the buzzer.
They converted in neither game.
“We have to find a way to make a basket when it counts,” Krystkowiak said. “It’s not hard to figure out. We have to execute down the stretch and if we can do that, some of these games will start going our way.”
If nothing else, Utah proved something to itself this past week. The Utes were a conference punching bag last season, losing multiple time by horrific margins. The program may have sent a message that it will be competitive during the league schedule.
But can Utah win, and win consistently in the Pac-12?
That’s a question that has yet to be answered. Thursday night, the Utes will face a streaking, talented UCLA team that features the one roster in the league that can challenge Arizona. Utah has to prove that it can score in the final five minutes of close games, and that it can score from the perimeter — two big question marks.
“We have a lot of confidence as a team,” freshman forward Jordan Loveridge said. “We have to get better on offense, but coach is really stressing defense. We have to come out and play better against UCLA; they have a very good team and it’s going to be a challenge for us.”
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UCLA at Utah
P Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
TV • Pac-12 Networks