As a part of what he does annually as a coach, Larry Krystkowiak will meet with each of his players by Monday afternoon. He will tell them what they’ve done right. He will alert them to improvements they need to make for the rest of the season. Then, Utah will get to work, preparing for Washington State.
The face-to-face conversations couldn’t come at a better time for the Utes.
Utah at Washington StateThursday, 7:30 p.m. MST
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Utah is at a crossroad. The Utes are 8-8 overall and 0-4 in the Pac-12 Conference. More distressing, they were blown out by USC on Saturday afternoon at the Huntsman Center, negating most of the optimism from three straight close defeats to the top teams in the league.
All of which raises the question: Will they improve and start winning games? Or will the losing snowball downhill and gain even more steam in the coming weeks?
"We’ve got to take a look in the mirror," Utah senior guard Jarred DuBois said. "From the coaches to the managers, everyone in the program has to look in the mirror and figure out what it is that we did in the past to win and what we’re not doing now. Hopefully, as individuals, we can look at ourselves and that will bring the team together."
The Utes spoke of Saturday as being rock bottom, their lowest point of the season. Indeed, the loss to the Trojans is the first game that’s truly gotten away from them on the scoreboard.
But there are glaring issues with the Utes that beg to be solved as they get ready to travel to Washington State and Washington.
Utah isn’t scoring nearly enough easy baskets on offense. Everything with the ball is a struggle, creating a culture where absolutely everything has to go right for the team to have a chance to win.
When the Utes are getting open looks at the basket, their shots aren’t going in. In three of their four conference losses, Utah’s had the ball and an open shot for the go-ahead basket in the final minute. None has gone into the basket.
"Hopefully, this is the lowest point for us," DuBois said. "Sometimes, it’s good to get to this point. It really shows what you are made of."
There have been no excuses coming from the Utes. No moral victories. Krystkowiak acknowledged his team got "whooped" by USC. More than one player said that the Trojans were the aggressor and that Utah needs to figure out a way to be better at the beginning of games.
Nobody in the program is giving up on the season, though. Nobody is conceding anything.
"We’re not going to quit," Krystkowiak said. "We know that the sun will keep coming up. We have 14 games left in conference play, and we’re going to come out and play hard in all of them."
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