The Utah Runnin’ Utes snapped a five-game winning streak and fell 74-58 to the USC Trojans Saturday afternoon at the Huntsman Center.
Head Coach Larry Krystkowiak summed up the first half with these five words: “It was a perfect storm.”
Coach Krystkowiak’s team came out flat. There was no energy, chemistry or leadership. All three of those lead to the Utes not being able to create much of anything on offense. As a collective, the team missed wide-open looks. It seemed as if the Utes were settling for three-point shots right out of the gate instead of looking inside. They couldn’t knock down the wide-open threes or easy layups. The Runnin’ Utes were clearly out of gas after playing a string of elite teams.
“…when we got two of our key contributors not playing and we played about 38 hours ago and you try to tip off at 12:30 for some reason, I don’t know if we had a lot of gas in our tank but I’m not going to be the guy that blew a gasket on the court for some stuff and be a cry baby. It just didn’t fit our timing very well in playing a couple of elite teams back to back. You know when you are finishing up at 9:30 one night and tipping off at 12:30 a day and a half later, I felt like we were a little bit gassed but I don’t want to take any of the credit away from USC,” explained Krystkowiak.
The Utes shot 34.6 percent from the field, 25 percent from the three and 70 percent from the free-throw line in the first half, compared to USC’s 51.7 percent from the field, 36.4 percent from the three and 57.1 percent from the free-throw. Chimezie Metu, a 6-foot-11 for the Trojans, proved to be too much for the Utes in the first half. With five blocks, the Utes struggled on the inside.
“They made some big-time plays, in the first half they hit a lot of open shots and then the six open shots they missed they got rebounds and guess what they scored 12 points off of those so it was a little bit of a perfect storm, we missed five layups in the first half. Can’t miss layups, not at this level of big boy basketball and at the end of the day when you get a layup against a defensive team that is as good as they are, they lead the league in forced turnovers, and when you are presented with a layup you got to make it as simple as that sounds. So, it was a little bit of a perfect storm, in the first half I was super proud of the guys for not folding their tent,” Krystkowiak said.
The Utes seemed to find a spark towards the ends of the first half with just about one minute to play. The Utes went into the locker room after capitalizing off of a missed dunk by USC’s Chimezie Metu. Justin Bibbins grabbed the rebound for the Utes, pushed it up the court and found Donnie Tillman on the fast break for the dunk.
Trying to rally his team, Coach K said he told the guys in the locker room a quote from the late Jon Huntsman Sr., whom the Utes have dedicated their season to, “Difficulty is not an excuse that history accepts.”
“If you want to say this is hard and throw in the towel, we can do that or we can keep fighting,” Coach K said.
In the second half, Utah came out strong. The team went on an 8-0 run down 43-36, leaving USC scoreless for almost four minutes. After a few three pointers and a dunk from David Collette to rile up the team and the crowd, the Utes got within two points of USC. Then, the unthinkable happened. USC went on a 14-0 run and left Utah scoreless. USC went on to win the game 74-58.
During the postgame presser with reporters, Coach K was fired up when reporters asked if any of the off-court happenings proved to be distractions for the Utes on the court. To bring you up to speed, an explosive report by Yahoo Sports Friday morning named former University of Utah forward Kyle Kuzma among a group of players who received money from a sports agency while in college. Then, to top it off, there was a burglary reported from the home of current Ute players Jake Connor, Tyler Rawson and Beau Rydalch. The players reportedly had their laptops, money and a vehicle stolen while they were playing against UCLA Thursday night. Here’s the long quote from Coach Krystkowiak, but I promise you, the audio below is much better!
“Until somebody tells me what Kyle Kuzma supposedly did, he’s not guilty in my mind. Whatever took place — maybe it was after he left school — I don’t know. Nobody has put a memo in front of me or interviewed me to know what the hell is going on around the world. Until I know for sure what he did, I can’t respond to that. But I know there’s a couple different things that are happening. One is, once a player picks a school to go to and then he becomes successful — because last time I checked, Kyle, he was heavily recruited but people weren’t looking to pay him. Actually, they were looking to pay him. We chose not to even talk about it. But there were people, four, five years ago that wanted to pay him. He chose to make the right decision and come here and do it the right way. So if all of a sudden in year three, or year four, a young man becomes a pretty good player and you have all this agent stuff — I don’t have an agent. Can’t stand them. No need for them. And they start floating around here in the spring when our season is over — I saw it happening. They come in with the workout guys and try to make connections. I don’t know what happened. But when I heard that I was disappointed. What I was disappointed about was seeing the Drum and Feather on ESPN. That pisses me off. There’s nothing NCAA wise illegal within our program. But with the system, if there’s ever time for a fix, it’s now,” Coach K emotionally said.
While Coach K didn’t really address the alleged burglary, Tyler Rawson did. He said having his name in the news wasn’t a distraction and did not have any role in Saturday’s loss to USC.
“It was just a freak thing and it’s a one-time thing. I already got my laptop replaced and Jake’s already got a nice rental. All that off-the-court stuff is off the court. We were ready to go today.”
Up next, Utah will play host to Colorado on Saturday, March 3 at the Huntsman Center. When BlockU.com’s Brittany Johnson asked Coach K if he’s seen any film on the Buffaloes yet to see how the two match up, he responded with this:
“Oh no! S**t! I’m just trying to get through. I just said a curse word. I’m just wiping the blood from my face right now after that whoopin’.”
Tip-off against Colorado is set for 5:00 p.m.
Let’s hope Coach K gets around to that film…..