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Utah Basketball: Utes look to be offensive vs. USC

Published January 15, 2014 6:30 pm

Utah bogged down in losses at Washington, WSU
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The film session was on Monday. Two and a half hours of Larry Krystkowiak and his team going over every single offensive play of Sunday's loss to Washington State.

On Tuesday, the Utes underwent an energetic practice in which Krystkowiak said his team was in "great spirits."

Will it all translate into better productivity Thursday when USC comes to the Huntsman Center? Can Utah shake the offensive doldrums that defined its first road trip this season in the Pac-12?

In losing to Washington and WSU, the Utes scored just 57 and 46 points, respectively. While it is debatable that Utah's less-than-challenging non-conference schedule has played a role in its struggles — the Utes played just one road game in November and December — what can't be argued is that the Utes look like a different team offensively than they did in the previous two months.

"We didn't play hard offensively," Krystkowiak said. "We didn't run hard offensively. We didn't screen hard when we had the ball. And when you aren't playing hard, the defense is playing harder than you. Guys weren't getting open and when we did get open shots, we didn't make them. I think karma kind of caught up with us in that regard, because we didn't play hard enough offensively to deserve open shots."

So how does Utah fix things?

Krystkowiak said playing hard and screening hard ranks at the top of the list. He said the biggest lesson learned from last week is that effort is a two-way street. The Utes were great defensively, but that just kept them in games. They couldn't score enough to win.

Players spoke of playing with pace, and of getting into their plays at a faster rate. On too many possessions, Utah would nonchalantly pass the ball around the top of the key and then be forced to make a play when the 35-second shot clock drifted under 10 seconds. It made for rushed shots, and put too much pressure on Delon Wright and Jordan Loveridge to make plays.

"We definitely have to play faster,," Loveridge said. "If we run the pick and roll, we need to get into it, instead of just walking around. If we go a little faster, I think things will get a little better."

In November and December, Utah was one of the top five scoring teams in the country. The Utes were one of the national leaders in two point field goal percentage. They were at the top of the conference in assists, and they were at the top in turnover margin.

Much of that went over the side in the two losses last week. Neither USC, nor UCLA — which visits the Huntsman Center Saturday — are great defensively. Both teams also play at a faster pace than Utah's two opponents from last week, which could help the Utes offensively. —

USC at Utah

O At The Huntsman Center

Tipoff • Thursday, 8 p.m.

TV • Pac-12 Network

Radio • 700 AM

Records • Utah 12-4 (1-3); USC 9-7 (0-3)

Series history • USC leads 17-15

Last meeting • Utah 69, USC 66 (March 13, 2013)