Larry Krystkowiak’s challenge to his team started first thing Monday.
Usually at this time of year, Utah’s practices are pretty tame. The Utes run plays. They formulate strategy. They go over scouting reports and watch film. But they don’t usually go too hard, not with the Pac-12 grind presenting a twice weekly test.
Washington State at UtahAt the Huntsman Center
Saturday, 6 p.m.
TV » Pac-12 Network
Radio » 700 AM
Records » Utah 15-7, 4-6; Washington State 9-13, 2-8
Last meeting » Washington State 49-46 (Jan. 12)
About the Cougars » Washington State is 335th nationally in scoring, averaging 62.5 points per game. … DaVonte Lacy leads WSU with 18.3 points per game. … Washington State is currently 11th in the Pac-12. … The Cougars have lost five out of their last six.
About the Utes » Jordan Loveridge scored 16 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in Thursday’s win over Washington. … Utah is 15-1 at the Huntsman Center this season. … The Utes have lost three of their past four games. … Utah is looking for its fifth Pac-12 win this season. … The Utes are 29th nationally, scoring 79 points per game
But this past Monday — three days before Utah defeated Washington 78-69 at the Huntsman Center — was different. It was a marathon of rebounding drills and physical play. Tuesday was more of the same, as was Wednesday.
It was similar to the intense workouts coaches have during the first practices of September and October.
"Rebounding is something that we emphasize," Krystkowiak said. "So when you get beat at something you normally do, you have to work on it."
The beating Krystkowiak spoke on came at the hands of Colorado last weekend, and from Arizona the week before. Time and again, he watched those two teams bludgeon his in the rebounding battle. They were simply tougher, and that didn’t sit well with him.
So he issued his challenge, and his team responded. On Thursday, the Utes won the rebounding battle (34-28) with the Huskies. They won most of the loose balls, diving on the floor, calling timeouts. Indeed, Utah played with played a desperation Thursday, and they got results.
Now the trick for Utah is to carry Thursday’s effort over to Saturday, when it faces Washington State at the Huntsman Center.
Nobody drew Krystkowiak’s attention more than Loveridge, who had just four points and four rebounds in 38 minutes in the loss to Colorado. Of course, nobody responded to the call to rebounding more than the West Jordan native.
"We got killed against Arizona and Colorado," Loveridge said. "In a lot of ways, I took it upon myself to take the challenge. All week long, Coach had been harping on rebounds, on both offense and defense."
Loveridge grabbed 13 rebounds against Washington, nine in the first half. He scored 16 points, but a lot of them came late. For a long stretch, Loveridge was rebounding and passing the ball, but not doing much scoring. But that was exactly what Krystkowiak wanted to see.
"Well, he had nine [rebounds] in the first half alone, so that was big," Krystkowiak said. "I’d been preaching and emphasizing rebounding all week in practice, so it was good to see his mindset and focus on that. For Jordan to have a double-double and to get 13 rebounds, that was pretty big for us."
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