Utes freshman Donnie Tillman first heard the notion of him having a “stress fracture” late last week after ESPN analyst and color commentator Bill Walton suggested it during the broadcast of the Utah-UCLA game from Los Angeles.
Walton’s diagnosis was news to Tillman. Utah’s 6-foot-7, 225-pound forward missed four games in the middle of December due to a foot sprain. He returned and played in a home game against Arizona on Jan. 4, then missed games against Arizona State and UCLA.
“My foot feels fine,” Tillman said after Sunday’s game against USC. “I’m just taking care of it day by day. I got some of my explosiveness back, and I’m getting up better. I think that extra week off after Arizona really helped me.”
His absence in those games and coach Larry Krystkowiak’s deflection of all questions about Tillman’s status led to speculation that his injury might’ve been more serious than previously thought. Tillman verified that his foot was sprained, not fractured.
“It swelled back up” after the Arizona game, he said. “That’s a real bad sign. That means I rushed it. I felt it a little bit in game and especially after.”
Tillman, who has averaged 10.2 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, started for the first time Sunday. He said he thinks he is close to 100 percent.
Krystkowiak lamented after Sunday’s loss his team having to play four consecutive Sundays, including this weekend’s game at home against Washington State.
When asked about it during his weekly news conference, he initially backed off his comments somewhat and said he didn’t want to be labeled a “whiner” and “complainer.” However, he then reiterated that playing Sunday games doesn’t give players a true day off without games, practices or classes.
“It’s something we probably need to take a close look at,” Krystkowiak said, “the fact that we have one less day on the back end to prep. If a team didn’t play Sunday, that means they take Sunday off and they’ve got days. So it hasn’t worked out great for us. Again, I’m not going to be a whiner. Personally, I think we should probably get something in there that says you can only play so many Sunday games in a row. I’d like to think that magic number would be two.”
Utes women’s basketball coach Lynne Roberts’ formula to get her team back on track after a pair of losses this past week included extra rest. Roberts described her team’s play against USC in Sunday’s loss as “a twilight zone kind of game.” She went into this week with a three-part plan going into this weekend’s road trip to play the Arizona schools: “Regroup, re-engage and re-attack.”
“You’ve got to kind of have a pulse on what your team needs, and I just felt like [we] looked flat,” Roberts said Tuesday. “We were tired. I don’t think that we were physically tired. We just looked emotionally drained, out of character.
“What we did was we took two days off. We were supposed to practice [Monday]. We didn’t. They didn’t have school [Monday] because of the holiday, so they got [Monday] completely off. Today we’re not practicing either.”