Utah's basketball team thrived from 3-point range during the opening week of Pac-12 play, with 52.9-percent shooting in two games. That's probably not sustainable.
Yet coach Larry Krystkowiak plans to keep emphasizing the volume of 3-pointers, compared with his team’s 2-point attempts. The Utes already were in the top 25 nationally in terms of the percentage of 3-pointers among their total shots, and that figure became slightly higher in a win at Arizona State and a loss at Arizona.
For the season, 3-point attempts account for 45.7 percent of Utah’s shots. To validate that strategy, the Utes are shooting 38.3 from 3-point range, ranking in the top 40. And that success contributes to Utah’s No. 31 ranking in adjusted offensive efficiency in the kenpom.com analytics.
The Utes have good shooters, they're sharing the basketball and Krystkowiak is conceding that trying to feed a post player for inside scoring is just too difficult these days.
WASHINGTON AT UTAH
When • Thursday, 8 p.m.
TV • FS1
“If you watch games in and around the basket, it's a bloodbath in and around the basket,” Krystkowiak said Tuesday, during his weekly news conference. “It's unbelievable how much contact is allowed down there now.”
So, like many NBA coaches, the former power forward has adjusted his offensive philosophy. “You do the math, and 3s add up a heck of last faster,” Krystkowiak said.
That’s what happened during the Utes' opening swing of conference play, as they made 16 of 30 attempts from 3-point range in a 96-86 win at ASU and went 11 of 21 in an 84-81 loss at Arizona. One more successful 3-pointer — Parker Van Dyke’s good-looking attempt that rimmed out in the last few seconds of a one-point game at Arizona — would have given the Utes a phenomenal trip.
Defense remains a major issue for the Utes (7-7), who will host Washington on Thursday and Washington State on Saturday at the Huntsman Center. But they’ve responded well lately to Krystkowiak’s offensive emphasis of sharing the ball and not forcing shots. He’s even willing to accept shot-clock violations, as happened multiple times during the trip.
“I do think we’ve cleaned up our offensive execution and have a little better understanding of what the shot value is we’re looking for,” he said. “I know without a doubt in the last three weeks we’ve had an incredible change in kind of the mindset of the willingness to share the ball. Our teams have always been that way and it kind of took awhile.”
In conference games only, Ute senior guard Sedrick Barefield (25.0) is the Pac-12's No. 3 scorer and sophomore forward Donnie Tillman (21.5) is No. 6. Each player shot at least 56 percent from the field in the two games.
It helps that the Utes work on shooting. “Believe it or not,” Krystkowiak said, “you actually have to shoot in practice. I think there’s plenty of coaches that kind of forget that. You have to commit time, and this time of year, it’s not always easy to take 20 or 30 minutes to shoot.”