SALT LAKE CITY — “Consistency, effort and doing the little things well.”
That’s what Utah forward Donnie Tillman said is peached to the team. It’s head coach Larry Krystkowiak’s message.
The execution, thereof, is still a work in progress.
After opening Pac-12 play with a promising split in Arizona, the Utes returned home Thursday and dropped a 69-53 decision to Washington. The zone defense the Huskies played led to the Utes missing 40 shots from the field. They were just 6 of 30 from 3-point range.
Tillman, however, felt Utah’s problems began on the other end of the floor.
“In any basketball game you’ve got to play defense,” he said. “I think that’s where it really went bad for us.”
Washington was 9 of 22 beyond the arc, making seven in the pivotal first half. Things also got physical. So much so, in fact, that Utah center Jayce Johnson wound up needing stitches for a head wound.
The loss knocked Utah down to 7-9 overall and 1-2 in Pac-12 games.
“We’ve got to play with an edge, but it’s also the different game plans, the different styles. You have to be able to adapt. We can’t be guarded man-to-man all the time,” Krystkowiak said. “That’s the thing that makes the conference unique — is you get different pitches. We didn’t succeed at all. We’ve got a long way to go in that regard.”
Utah squares off with Washington State next. Tip-off is set for Saturday night at 6 in the Huntsman Center.
The Cougars (7-8, 0-2) come to town on a five-game skid. Since an 89-73 win over Southern Illinois Edwardsville on Dec. 19, the Cougars have lost to San Diego (82-75), New Mexico State (75-72), Santa Clara (79-71), Washington (85-67) and Colorado. They’ve played without Pac-12 scoring leader Robert Franks (22.1 ppg) for the past three games while he recovers from a hip injury.
Could Washington State be just what the doctor ordered for a Utah team struggling to find its way? Krystkowiak doesn’t necessarily buy into such thinking.
“I go back to every game is a marathon and you can’t get fat and comfortable and thinking you’ve got some things solved,” he said. “Every team poses a different set of problems.”
EXTRA STUFF: Washington State leads the Pac-12 in 3-point shooting. However, the Cougars made just 1 of 11 in a 92-60 loss at Colorado on Thursday. Jeff Pollard of Bountiful scored 12 points in the setback . . . Utah holds a 23-4 advantage in the all-time series and has won the past nine meetings with Washington State . . . The Utes close out a three-game homestand on Sunday, Jan. 20 against Colorado.
Washington State (7-8, 0-2) at Utah (7-8, 1-2)
- Huntsman Center
- Saturday, 6 p.m.
- TV: Pac-12 Networks
- Radio: ESPN 700AM
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