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October 26, 2012

No scrimmage hangover for Runnin' Utes

The practice following a scrimmage is usually telling. Typically, the next session following a scrimmage is spent fixing things and putting out fires. Not so on Thursday for the University of Utah basketball team.

Coaches will put off making tangible evaluations pending the requisite film session that always follows a scrimmage, and given time to dissect a team's scrimmage performance, a coach usually finds more negative than immediate post-scrimmage impressions. At the Utes' afternoon practice Thursday, head coach Larry Krystkowiak said he came away feeling fairly satisfied with his team's overall performance in the scrimmage after watching the film.

While the Utes certainly have much to improve upon, the Coach Krystkowiak's reaction is almost glowing, considering his frank and direct nature and tendency to temper good with the bad. True to form, Krystkowiak summarized his thoughts on the session.

"I thought we were pretty darn good defensively, for the most part," said Krystkowiak, just prior to the requisite 'but'. "We had one squad, the squad that I coached, had seven more turnovers than the other squad. The other team didn't take good shots, and forced some shots. They didn't grade out the way we wanted, in shot selection."

Confident in their collective scoring ability, the offensive setback was a bit of a surprise, but not so large an issue that it should be particularly troubling at this early stage in the season. Still, the Utes strive to learn their lessons from the scrimmage as part of their mantra of improving every day.

"Out of that, I think we learned number one, the importance of taking care of the ball," he said. "Number two, we've got to be patient enough and smart enough to take better shots."

Addressing some of the positives, Krystkowiak was happy with the play of his big men Dallin Bachynski and Renan Lenz.

"Between Dallin and Renan, they shot 68 percent from the field and had seven blocked shots between them and that was the difference in the game," recalled Krystkowiak. "We didn't get any blocked shots out of the other bigs, and they shot 55 percent. There just seemed to be more energy from [Dallin and Renan]."

In discussing what each player brings to the table, Krystkowiak sees big positives and huge upside in both Bachynski and Lenz. Both bring very different things, but because their respective games are so different, they provide a nice compliment to the other.

'[Bachynski] is a high-energy guy, and he's one of the leaders on our team in all of our conditioning tests. He was second on our team in the two-mile run, which he did in under 11 minutes.That's kind of unheard of for a guy that's 6-foot-11,"praised Krystkowiak. "So he's very well conditioned. Take last night for example. He played a lot of minutes, almost a whole game and I took him out for a short stretch and he was on the bench letting it be known that he wanted back in. So he's proved that he's a guy that wants it, and will work for it. He's someone that wants to do everything he can to get better."

Speaking to Bachynski post-practice confirms the portrait his coach painted of him.

"I haven't played basketball for almost two years, so I'm really excited to be back out there, and to be able to get to play again," Bachynski said, referring to his time away from the game due to his LDS mission, and a hip surgery upon his return. "I'm really hungry and trying to soak in everything I can, and do everything I can to get better and improve my game."

Wednesday night provided a snap shot of what Lenz is capable of, as he came on very late in the scrimmage to drop 17 points on the strength of inside and outside shooting. Under the circumstances, says Coach Krystkowiak, what Lenz is already showing is impressive.

"When you talk about a JUCO player, it's usually the case that the guy doesn't really start to get it until December. Add to that that he's a foreign player with all of those adjustments to make, and we could be sitting in a very different position with him," explained Krystkowiak of Lenz. "He's also got a new coach, system and team, so I think he's doing a great job so far."

Lenz has also been working to adjust to more of a post position role, rather than the three where he seems to be more comfortable and accustomed. With his versatile capabilities, Lenz figures to be a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses, once he gets his head around a more traditional post player role.

"I think he probably prefers playing on the perimeter, but we're trying to get him a little stronger and aggressive on the inside, but he's kind of the prototypical four man that can kind of do it all," said Krystkowiak.

On top of it all, Lenz has had to work physically to drop weight, and then add good weight and his conditioning wasn't where it needed to be coming in.

"He didn't come in in the best condition, and he's dropped twenty pounds since he's been here," added Krystkowiak.

Once he puts all of those factors behind him, the prospects of what Lenz might accomplish before its all said in done makes for a bright outlook for the Runnin' Utes.

"I just tried to force myself not to think about anything but playing basketball, and I tried to let the game. I tried to not think as much and have fun playing," said Lenz of his key, late-scrimmage performance Wednesday night after struggling a bit through early season practices. "I felt good last night about my game. I think I showed what I'm capable of doing."

Indeed, Krystkowiak's squad showed the Ute fans in attendance what it was capable of, with impressive performances from multiple Utes. Seven Utah players scored in double digits, and others who scored less contributed in other significant ways.

The Utes demonstrated that they are versatile, deep and multi-dimensional enough to divert any opponent from focusing on any one player, which can only bode well for them as they embark on their first real season in the Pac-12.


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