Washington St.-Utah Preview
Though its seven-game winning streak ended in ugly fashion, Utah is excited to get back on track and continue its dominance at home.
Washington State might not be as enthusiastic to return to Salt Lake City.
Trying to prevent the Cougars from winning three straight Pac-12 road games for the first time in six seasons, the No. 12 Utes look for a 31st consecutive home victory over an unranked opponent Wednesday night.
Utah (14-3, 4-1) has had three days off to regroup from Saturday's 69-51 road defeat to then-No. 10 Arizona, and coach Larry Krystkowiak has come to grips with his team's disappointing performance.
"It's not time to jump ship and recreate the wheel," he said. "It was a good old-fashioned beat down."
Shooting 49.8 percent to rank among the national leaders, the Utes were held to 39.0 percent Saturday and more than 23 points below their season average. They also were outrebounded 40-19, including 17-4 on the offensive glass, and outscored 18-3 on second-chance points.
"Looking at the rebounds, that's an indication that we still have some work to do," Krystkowiak said. "Toughness is a mindset."
While that has been an area of emphasis in practice, it was only the second time the Utes didn't have the rebounding edge this season. They haven't been outrebounded in the last 16 at home, where they've won 13 straight overall and haven't lost to an unranked opponent since Jan. 27, 2013.
"We get to jump back in the saddle," said Krystkowiak, whose team has won its three Pac-12 home games by an average of 27.0 points while allowing just 47.7 per game.
"Our guys are eager to get the bad taste out of their mouth."
After losing 15 straight Pac-12 road games, Washington State (9-8, 3-2) posted three-point victories at California and Washington this month. The Cougars haven't won three consecutive league road games since January 2009.
However, Washington State has dropped 12 straight at Utah since winning the first meeting there Dec. 14, 1946. Seven of the last eight were decided by at least 14 points.
Whereas the Utes average 82.2 points at home, the Cougars are last in the Pac-12 in points allowed (74.1 per game) and defensive field-goal percentage (45.6).
"They are an excellent, excellent basketball team. They deserve their ranking," coach Ernie Kent said. "They ran into a little bit of a buzzsaw at Arizona and that crowd. ... They're coming off of a loss. They need to get going again. It's going to be an incredible college basketball environment. We're gonna have to really be on our game."
Washington State lost 81-63 in Salt Lake City on Feb. 8 in the teams' last meeting. Brandon Taylor led Utah with 16 points, Jordan Loveridge had 13 and Delon Wright added 11 with nine assists. They're also the three players averaging in double figures for the Utes this season, led by Wright's 15.0 points and 5.8 assists.
Cougars senior DaVonte Lacy averages 17.4 points to rank fourth in the conference and scored 22 in the last meeting with Utah. He should play despite still being banged up from a knee-to-knee collision during Thursday's 108-99 overtime win over Oregon.
Lacy had 24 that day but was held to 16 - all in the second half - as Washington State's season-high three-game winning streak ended with Saturday's 62-47 loss to Oregon State.
"He has a lot of pride and is having a great season," Krystkowiak said of Lacy, whom he coached as part of a Pac-12 team that toured China over the summer. "He is a handful to play against."