On their first road game of the season, Utah out-shot SMU 38.6 percent to 33.9 percent and still found a way to lose 62-55 at Moody Coliseum in Dallas Wednesday night.
Defensively, Utah felt good about its effort, overall, holding the Mustangs well under their 47.5 field goal percentage, and limiting them to just six made shots throughout the entire second half.
"I thought we were pretty good defensively and we put forth a really nice effort," Krystkowiak looked for the silver lining. "We switched to zone and that seemed to give them trouble because there were possessions where they stood around."
Article Continues Below
The problem was that the Utes also shot well below their normal 49.4 field goal percentage, but shooting wasn't their only problem Wednesday night.
The Utes fell to 4-2 on the season amid a poor shooting night, poor ball security and a lack of execution offensively.
"I thought our players knew what was going to happen, and most times there was just one player out of position on a possession," observed Krystkowiak. "We're getting things figured out and we know it's a learning process."
Some nights, shots just don't fall, and that is a basketball certainty. Every team in the nation will experience them, and good teams learn to fight through it with good defense, hustle and scrap.
Instead, the Utes turned the ball over 17 times in the contest, and strayed dangerously far from their game plan by launching up 23 three-pointers, making only nine on the night.
"I think we were living and dying with the three-pointer early, and half of our field goal attempts were from beyond the arc in the first half," appraised Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak."
Conversely a normally average three-point shooting team, SMU shot 75 percent from behind the arc, nailing 6-8 shots. At one point in the first half, the Mustangs shot from long-range at will, knocking down its first six three pointers. Sparked by long-distance shooting, SMU went on a 17-3 run to end the first half up 35-25 on the answer-less Utes.
Against varying SMU zone defenses, the Utes fell flat offensively, riding senior guard Jarred DuBois' 25 point performance as far as that would take them. However, DuBois' career and game-high performance would only take them so far, as the next Ute barely broke double digits.
On a slow start, freshman Jordan Loveridge came on midway through the second half to spark a Utah run which found the Utes down by just one point after the SMU double-digit lead.
Loveridge's 10 point, 11 rebound effort helped, but was not enough.
After what looked to be a game-tying three-pointer by DuBois, the Utes were busy celebrating the feat, and gave up an immediate easy bucket, putting SMU right back up. After the SMU score, the officials reviewed the DuBois trey and determined his foot was on the line, resulting in a point being taken off the board for Utah and a three point SMU lead.
Utah flirted with the double-digit deficit all night long, getting back to within seven points as the half wore, before ultimately submitting to an SMU team who seemed to get every bounce of the ball on the night.
Typically, any coach will say, the team that plays hardest, and displays the most 'want-to' gets the breaks, and that was certainly the case Wednesday night.
Despite Utah's sloppy play and multitude of issues needing resolution, it was in the game as late as the final few minutes of the contest.
While neither Krystkowiak nor the Utes will dwell on it, SMU made its living at the free throw line Wednesday night, as Utah racked up 18 fouls on the night, culminating in 21 free throw attempts to Utah's three. SMU capitalized, converting 18 of those attempts into points, which can't be over-looked in the Utes' seven point loss.
Still, Krystkowiak will undoubtedly focus his efforts on his team, and the things they can control, which includes finishing easy shots around the rim.
The issue was rampant throughout the night, and showed in the final analysis.
Center Dallin Bachynski finished the game with nine rebounds, two assists, one steal and three blocks, but scored just three points on 1-7 shooting, compared to his 11.5 ppg average on the season. While senior center Jason Washburn scored just two points in 15 minutes, but did pull down 5 rebounds, tally two assists and one block.
"I don't think our bigs were very disciplined or poised tonight," criticized Krystkowiak. "They tried to finesse it on trips and that cost us."
Despite his 10 points, Loveridge was just 5-15 from the field, many of which were open, easy shots near the basket. Utah's bench, normally a strength, shot just 3-12 collectively from the field, adding just six total points in the contest.
Wednesday's loss was an eye-opening look for the Utes, especially in some very key statistical areas.
SMU scored 17 points off of turnovers, compared to Utah's nine, while SMU scored 24 points to Utah's 14.
Statistics and scores aside, the loss boils down to just one thing for the Utes, according to Krystkowiak.
"We have to be tougher, physically and mentally," he summarized.