As Larry Krystkowiak attempted to explain away a 15-point, mostly one-sided loss to UCLA on Thursday evening, the University of Utah head coach was at least willing to admit that certain aspects of what his team needs to accomplish were sorely lacking.
Utah’s defense at the point of attack was poor, the Bruins getting open looks on top of open looks all night in shooting 55.4% from the floor and a whopping 57.9% from 3-point range. This was a physical game, and Utah seemingly came out on the wrong end of that as the Bruins imposed their will from around the under-12 media timeout of the first half.
We will stop here because that is all UCLA needed to do to win this game. It hit an abundance of clean shots from all spots on the floor, and out-physicaled the opponent. Those two factors alone led Krystkowiak to make an interesting postgame observation.
“I thought we had a little bit of give-up in us, which can’t be part of our identity,” Krystkowiak said. “That’s not unusual when a team is clicking right along at such a good offensive pace. It gets a little hard, it puts an awful lot of pressure on your offense when you’re taking the ball out of the net all the time. We need to have more belief that we can stop guys and impose our will on some of those situations.”
Krystkowiak used the term “give-up” without enough context, because on the surface, that term would seem to indicate a lack of will and/or lack of a want-to on the part of his players. To be fair, there did appear to be long stretches on Thursday night where that may have been the case. Pressed further on “give-up,” lack of will, and want to, Krystkowiak made clear that he did not believe his players gave up against the Bruins (17-5, 13-3 Pac-12), but he also made clear that Thursday wasn’t nearly good enough.
“It’s not a quit thing, I would never say our guys quit, but it just puts such a strain on you that it’s hard to play when you can’t find any momentum,” Krystkowiak said. “You’ve got to be able to get stops. The phrase I keep using, and it’s important to understand is, you have to figure out a way to impose your will on a game from a defensive mindset and there were some stretches where we were very deficient at that I thought.”
The fact Krystkowiak thought his team showed some defensive deficiencies against UCLA does not bode well for what’s coming next.
USC (Saturday) and Arizona State (March 6) are two of the Pac-12′s top-three scoring offenses and both reside inside the top 80 nationally. In between those two, Oregon State comes to the Huntsman Center, and the Utes gave up 74 points quite recently to the Beavers, who average only 70.3 per game.