Both Gach is struggling lately, and so is the Utah men’s basketball team

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes guard Both Gach (11) skies to the rim for the Utes to take the lead in the 2nd half. The University of Utah basketball team was defeated by Oregon, 64-69, Jan. 4, 2020, at the Jon M. Huntsman Center.

Tucson, Ariz. • Both Gach has not played well in either of Utah’s last two games, both losses to Pac-12 contenders Colorado and Arizona.

The sophomore wing shot 3-for-9 from the floor and 1-for-5 from 3-point range for seven points on Sunday in a 39-point loss at the Buffaloes. He followed that up Thursday against the Wildcats with two points on 1-for-8 shooting, including 0-for-4 from deep, in a 93-77 loss.

It is irrational to think that Gach playing better would make up 39 and 16-point deficits, but for the Utes to be successful, Gach needs to play well, or at least markedly better than he has lately.

In the bowels of the McKale Center Thursday night following the Arizona loss, this topic came up for the first time this season.

“Yeah, I’m not going to get into, you know, some of the stuff that we’re talking about internally,” said Krystkowiak, whose team will complete the Arizona trip on Saturday night vs. Arizona State at Desert Financial Arena. “Competing, it’s a big thing and it’s hard. This league is hard and there aren’t many secrets, and I think he’s got to stay within what he’s capable of doing and understanding that he needs to do what’s best for our team, as everybody.

“That was part of my message to our guys. Bring to the table what you do, and we need, certainly it starts at the defensive end. He's got to be better in some pick-and-roll coverage, but we'll break it down.”

Krystkowiak saying he would not address internal stuff is not new, but that is generally an answer reserved for injury-related questions. In this case, it may have come off as odd, if not defensive. The part about staying within his means and doing what’s best for the team is not a ringing endorsement. That offers at least some indication that Krystkowiak agrees that Gach needs to be playing better in the middle of Utah losing three straight and four of five as it heads to Tempe.

At some point, probably a month ago after the win over Kentucky, maybe after beating Oregon State, this Utah season felt like it could go someplace no one expected it could with such a young team. Losing streaks and getting beat up by NCAA Tournament-caliber opponents have thrown some water on that, but the Pac-12 is not enough of a beast where the Utes cannot get things turned around with 14 league games left.

For that to happen, Utah needs the Gach that hammered Nevada, Minnesota and Kentucky.

“There’s going to be adversity sometimes, but you have to keep fighting back and keep getting better,” Gach said after Colorado. “You’re always looking to try and get a win.”


At Desert Financial Arena, Tempe, Ariz.

Tipoff: Saturday, 7 p.m.

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Radio: ESPN 700AM

Series history: Utah leads, 34-22

Last meeting: Arizona State, 98-87 (2019)

About the Utes: Utah suffered its second straight blowout against a Pac-12 contender, falling at Arizona, 93-77, on Thursday night in Tucson. Timmy Allen and Riley Battin each had 16 points, but the Utes shot just 43.9 percent from the floor and 35.7 from 3-point range … Utah has lost three straight and four of five dating back to a Dec. 20 loss against San Diego State. Three of the four losses are to AP Top 25 teams, and all four have come against teams at least receiving votes … Utah’s KenPom rating is down to a season-low 115 following Thursday’s loss. That ranks the Utes ninth among Pac-12 schools on the authoritative, stats-driven website … Saturday represents a chance for a Quadrant 1 win. Utah has just one Quad 1 win, but is 4-0 against Quad 2 programs.

About the Sun Devils: Like Utah, Arizona State is 1-3 in the Pac-12 following a 68-61 home loss to Colorado on Thursday in Tempe. Like Utah, the Sun Devils’ three league losses are to Arizona, Oregon and Colorado … Sun Devils head coach Bobby Hurley is just 2-4, including 0-3 at home, against Larry Krystkowiak since arriving in Tempe for the 2015-16 season … Junior guard Remy Martin leads Arizona State in scoring at 19.3 points per game. Martin has five straight games of at least 20 points, but shot just 18-for-44 in his last two, both ASU losses.