Utes focusing on ‘trust’ as they look to end a three-game season skid at USC

LOS ANGELES — Getting back on track is an obvious priority for the Utah Utes Sunday at USC. They enter the contest on a three-game skid with losses to Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA. The slide followed a promising start featuring road wins at Oregon and Oregon State.

“We’ve just got to come out, stick to the game plan, play some defense, get some stops and just trust ourselves, trust our teammates, play together,” said junior guard Sedrick Barefield.

The lengthy list follows lackluster 83-64 setback at UCLA on Thursday. Utah never held a lead at Pauley Pavilion and fell to 10-6 overall and 2-3 in Pac-12 play. The Bruins made their first five shots and seven of eight to take command from the start. Sluggish starts have been a problem for the Utes.

“I think it could be an energy thing. When we’re not hitting shots, maybe it carries over to our defense,” Barefield said. “We’ve just got to make sure we defend and stick to the process, continue to take good shots — play hard, play smart, play together.”

Barefield added that the Utes have a bit of a bad taste in their mouths from the last three games.

“We know we’re better than that,” he said.

Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak had similar thoughts after breaking the down the UCLA film. He said “it was a little bit of everything” that led to the loss.

“We didn’t play as hard, or as smart, or as together as we needed to,” Krystkowiak said. “It just depended on what play you’re looking at. But it was usually one of those three.”

Of particular note was Utah’s 7-of-26 shooting from 3-point range against the Bruins. Krystkowiak said that at least five of them were shots that shouldn’t have been taken.

“It’s not like we weren’t getting enough of them. You don’t needed to shoot 30 threes in a game,” he continued. “But we had a lot of breakdowns.”

Some of it was shot selection, Krystkowiak explained.

“We didn’t just put the ‘play hard, play smart, play together’ (signage) in our practice facility because we needed to fill up some wall space,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that can get complicated about basketball, but it really, really does comes down to a lot of the simple fundamentals.”

Utah (10-6, 2-3) at USC (12-6, 3-2)

Galen Center, Los Angeles

Sunday, 6 p.m. (MT)


Radio: ESPN 700AM

Three travel calls and sloppy footwork led to work in practice Friday at the Galen Center. It prompted some boosters in attendance to ask Krystkowiak why the Utes were working on fundamentals in the middle of the season. “Fixing what’s broken” was his response as he emphasized the shortcomings against UCLA were evenly distributed with not playing hard, smart and together.

“We’re not trying to redesign the wheel or come up with anything magical,” Krystkowiak said. “It really is a little bit more simple having those concepts in place.”

As the Utes look back, the 66-56 win at Oregon on Dec. 29 proved to be a benchmark of sorts. Utah held the …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Sports News


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