Coming out of last week’s dreadful trip to Los Angeles, Utah needed a boost. The list of shortcomings from the trip was significant. By their own admission the Utes lacked rebounding, effort, toughness and defense.
With a win at home against Washington on Thursday that snapped a four-game losing streak, last week’s struggles don’t seem quite so painful. Thursday’s win marked the team’s first of 2018, its previous victory having come on New Year’s Eve in Corvallis, Ore.
“Winning, I’ve always compared to kind of like a medicine that soothes you a little bit,” coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “It’s a grind. It’s our job. We love it. There’s a lot of passion, a lot of work that goes into it. When things don’t go well over a period of some games and things start mounting. It’s a little bit of an elixir to make you feel good.”
Certainly, one game won’t cure all the ills. However, it did provide an element of optimism that the Utes could fix the errors which were most alarming. After all, Krysktowiak has long held the stance that losses shouldn’t be confused with a crisis. He’ll stomach a loss if it is accompanied by effort, execution and sound play.
WASHINGTON STATE AT UTAH
When • Sunday, 6 p.m.
TV • ESPNU.
There was little of that in Southern California. But things changed on Thursday.
Utes senior forward David Collette summed up the difference in the team’s performance in two words, “Playing harder.”
For the first time in Pac-12 play this season, the Utes (11-7, 3-4) outrebounded an opponent. They also held Washington to 38.5 percent shooting from the field, the lowest field goal percentage defense for the Utes in a conference game.
“We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing,” Collette said of the difference in the team. “It just comes from within everybody. Everyone’s got to find it within themselves to give that effort. I don’t know what we’ve been doing to turn that around, but whatever we’ve been doing we’ve got to keep doing it.”
If for no other reason than regaining its confidence, Utah needed to get back into the win column this week before hitting the road to face the Arizona schools, which each beat the Utes in Salt Lake City.
While the winning elixir can prove powerfully potent, Krystkowiak and his staff were guarding against the Utes relaxing now that they’ve got the losing streak behind them.
“We treated that film session as though it was a loss,” Krystkowiak said on Friday after reviewing video with the team. “You don’t want to get comfortable because we made plenty of mistakes. The key for us is continue to get better and quit making the same mistakes.
“We’re three, four months, five months into the season when you count the summertime, and some of the mistakes continue to rear their head. What do they say the definition of insanity, keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. We kind of laid that down with the guys. We’ve got a handful of nonnegotiables, and I don’t know what else do do as a coach. If we can’t start comprehending those things then we are going to have to go to the bench and commit to some guys that are committed to those nonnegotiables.”