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(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah center Jason Washburn (42) wrestles the ball from USC forward Dewayne Dedmon (14) during a game at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013.
Utah basketball: Utes to simplify sputtering offense

Coach worries that slumping Utes are thinking too much.

First Published Jan 14 2013 12:56 pm • Last Updated Jan 15 2013 12:20 am

Sometimes simple is better. At least that is what the Utah men’s basketball team hopes.

After suffering four losses in a row, the Utes (8-8, 0-4 Pac-12) are tweaking their offensive philosophy to make it less complicated in hopes Utah’s players will stop overthinking and just play instinctively.

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Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said he came to the conclusion something needed to be done following Saturday’s 76-59 loss to USC.

"We had three close games to start conference play and there is a tendency to think about some of the little things where one play might make a difference," he said Monday. "But then we get our butt whooped by USC and going home Saturday I started thinking about the big picture and the things we need to do to get back to the bigger picture. We have some thoughts and we are going to simplify things for our guys. We want to ease up in terms of what we are running and go ask them to make plays and hopefully gain confidence through that."

Krystkowiak followed through with his plan during individual player meetings on Monday.

"I don’t want them to think if they make a mistake they are going to get yanked out of the game, but at the same time, they have to make plays to stay in the game," he said. "It is, ‘What do I need to do for you Justin Seymour, Jason Washburn, to make this easier for you?’ We want to be on the same page and let them know what it is we need to do."

One thing the Utes need to do is improve their starts.

"Sometimes I think we have to come out and get punched in the mouth first and it takes a while to wake up," Krystkowiak said. "We have to have the right mindset coming out of the locker room."

Washburn said the players had their own meeting but it didn’t help in Saturday’s effort.

"We used the term ‘getting punked,’ he said. "We’re getting punked right out of the gate and it’s disappointing as players. We had that discussion as players and we came out Saturday afternoon and it happened again. It’s frustrating and it takes the wind out of our sails when you know what the problem is and you still let it happen."

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Saturday’s loss clearly was the most disheartening of the season for the Utes. The lopsided result wasn’t enough to save USC coach Kevin O’Neill’s job — he was fired Monday. The Trojans were 48-65 in his four years and 7-10 this season.

Krystkowiak said he’d just heard about the firing right before his press conference Monday.

"I’m a long way from L.A. to comment about what is going on there," he said.

His concern is more immediate, namely getting his team its first league win. The Utes play at Washington State on Wednesday and at Washington on Saturday. He hopes simplifying the offense and the individual meetings will help Utah turn around its season.

"It’s important we communicate and have them come in individually and we’re open for suggestions and we want to give them our input," he said. "After that, there isn’t a whole lot of time for talk in the next couple of months. We have to get busy thinking about more action and less talking."

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