What is Utah men’s basketball’s offensive identity as struggles continue?

(Ralph Freso | AP) Utah forward Timmy Allen, center, drives to the basket between Arizona State's Taeshon Cherry (35) and Rob Edwards (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, in Tempe, Ariz.

Tempe, Ariz. • Outside the visiting locker room at the McKale Center on Thursday night, Riley Battin began talking about the University of Utah’s offensive identity.

More specifically, the sophomore forward referenced this team’s lack of one at the moment, and with good reason. Since shooting a gaudy 54.8% in upsetting then-No. 6 Kentucky on Dec. 18, the Utes have not shot better than 43.9% in any of the six games since. Utah is 1-5 in those six games, including 39.3% shooting on Saturday night in a mostly one-sided 83-64 loss at Arizona State.

The two-part question now becomes, what exactly is this team’s offensive identity, and how do the Utes rediscover it?

“I think a lot of guys got a lot of stuff to figure out, which is normal, especially with a young team like ours,” said sophomore guard Timmy Allen, who scored 18 points against the Sun Devils, but shot just 6-for-18. “We have a lot of discovering to do, and a lot more basketball to play. We have to have some honest talks amongst ourselves and figure it out.

“We’ll go back to the drawing board a little bit and see where we’re at.”


At the Huntsman Center

When • Thursday, 6 p.m.

TV • Pac-12 Network

Allen said he and his teammates regularly talk amongst themselves, but that those talks are going to be have to be more detailed and more serious with the way things are going.

Some of Utah’s offensive numbers may suggest things are not as bad as they seem. After Saturday’s game, the Utes (10-7, 1-4 Pac-12), who are in sole possession of last place in the Pac-12, rank 60th nationally and seventh in the Pac-12 in offensive efficiency, per KenPom.com. That may be workable, but it is not at all ideal. Utah’s ranking 206th nationally and fifth in the league in adjusted tempo looks much worse, but is merely an indication that most teams in the Pac-12 play slow.

However one chooses to view those numbers, no one can argue that the half-court offense seems too muddled too much of the time, especially at the start of games as opponents have taken early control for the better part of the last month.

Additionally, Both Gach continued to struggle on Saturday. The talented sophomore scored three points on 1-for-7 shooting, including 1-for-6 from 3-point range. His three points came on a trey from the left wing with 1:04 remaining, long after the outcome had been decided.

In his last three games, Gach has scored a total of 12 points on 5-for-24 shooting. Gach, Krystkowiak and everyone else involved need to get that figured out, because it is an untenable situation if Utah hopes to see any success this winter.

“I know we need to do things collectively and play together,” Krystkowiak said. “There’s ebbs and flows in a season, and we’ve been guarded by some really good teams. I thought it was a little bit self-inflicted tonight, you know, pressing, and we’ve got to get back to some practice.

“Right now, there’s just a heck of a lot of forcing that’s taking place. Guys are pressing and we’re a little bit out of whack.”

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