Utah basketball: Last-place Utes won’t go down without fight
By Tony Jones
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Feb 10 2013 05:49PM
Eugene, Ore • Like last season, Utah is struggling to get wins in the Pac-12. Like last season, the Utes don’t have the depth or the scoring from the perimeter to match up with most conference teams — yet.
Unlike last year, Utah is no rollover. And even as the losses mount, the Utes are proving to be a resilient bunch.
At Matthew Knight Arena — the scene of a 46-point beatdown by Oregon last season — Utah led the Ducks at halftime Saturday and battled to a 73-64 defeat. The Utes fought to the end. They intentionally fouled enough to be heartily booed by the Oregon crowd. This all comes after a deflating blowout Wednesday night at the hands of Oregon State.
"We know that we’re improved," center Jason Washburn said. "We know that we’re better. We know that we’re not a team that can be stepped on. It’s frustrating that we keep coming up short, but there’s nothing to do but keep coming out and playing hard."
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak lauded the effort of his team, even as the Utes struggled mightily to garner rebounds against a big and physical Ducks frontline. Now, in last place and approaching double-digit losses in the league, Utah returns to the Huntsman Center to face Arizona State on Wednesday and Arizona on Sunday.
A month ago, the Utes stretched both the Sun Devils and the nationally ranked Wildcats to the gills, losing by one and three points, respectively. This will be different. Utah no longer has the excitement of league play to use as energy. The season has been a grind and the losing has been disappointing. And with ASU playing for an NCAA Tournament berth and Arizona playing for the No. 1 seed out west, will the Utes be able to pose a challenge to either of the two under the circumstance?
Recent history suggests Utah won’t give up. Krystkowiak’s crew could’ve easily put together a half-hearted performance at Oregon, but didn’t.
"We aren’t going to give up," point guard Brandon Taylor said. "Even against Oregon when we were down eight, we were pushing each other in the huddle and telling each other that the game wasn’t over. We aren’t that far away. We have to prepare this week and go out and play well."