Larry Krystkowiak was defiant. Determined.
In the moments following a 31-point drubbing at the hands of Stanford — the worst home loss in school history for Utah — Krystkowiak made the promise that his team would play hard for the remainder of the season.
The Utes now are 1-7 in the Pac-12 Conference, 9-11 overall, with close losses early in January giving way to disappointing defeats at home in the last week. With 10 league games still remaining, Utah won’t be the favorite in any of them. It raises serious questions about whether the Utes can match the three conference wins of last season.
Utah took off Monday, an extra 24 hours for the Utes to think about the loss they endured.
“If you want to come watch football practice, it takes place on Tuesday afternoon,” Krystkowiak said. “We are going to have some games that we play really well. But we can’t lay an egg like that. I’m not going to tolerate a lack of effort.”
To put it bluntly, Krystkowiak was disgusted with the lack of effort, toughness, basketball smarts and urgency against the Cardinal. In Krystkowiak’s view, the Utes just had come off a loss to California, a game they were never in. The game against Stanford represented the first Sunday home game in school history. There was no reason for the lethargy.
“That’s the million dollar question,” Krystkowiak said. “We got our butts kicked in every phase of the game. The one thing we’re going to do for the rest of the season is play hard. We got out-physicaled in every phase against Stanford. We’re just not dialed in.”
Nine days ago, the Utes traveled to Seattle and beat Washington at a time when the Huskies were unbeaten in the Pac-12. Those nine days seem like a lifetime ago.
The Utes have lost eight of their last nine games. They have been turnover-prone and haven’t been the defensive team they were earlier in the season. Also concerning has been the lack of production from the starting lineup.
Utah has one more game left on its homestand — Saturday against Colorado. Then a road trip to Oregon awaits.
“We came out dead on Sunday, like most of the other games we came out dead,” freshman guard Justin Seymour said. “Coaches put a lot of time into putting us in a good position. We can’t be outplayed like we have been.”
So Krystkowiak now goes back to square one. Spots in practice will be up for grabs leading to the Colorado game. The toughest players will be the ones who play. With the Pac-12 schedule almost halfway over, the Utes have a little more than a month to make an improvement.
Krystkowiak promised that nobody in the program would be quitting on the season.
“I’m going to go down swinging,” Krystkowiak said.