December 27, 2015

Utah's lackluster performance at Wichita State two weeks ago prompted coach Larry Krystkowiak to harp on his team about sharing the ball and playing more as a unit.

The 21st-ranked Utes heeded his advice more than he probably expected.

They look to keep rolling Monday night when they host NAIA foe College of Idaho in their final nonconference tuneup.

Utah (10-2) committed 19 turnovers and finished with a season-low five assists in a 67-50 road loss to the Shockers on Dec. 12 in an ugly performance that dropped it out of the Top 25 for the second time this year.

Krystkowiak said the Utes' coaching staff rates the quality of shots on a scale of five when reviewing film, and he didn't see many that earned high marks in that contest. He got back to basics in practice and preached the need for moving the ball and setting up teammates.

Four days later, Utah set a season high with 30 assists in a 46-point win over Savannah State before stunning then-No. 7 Duke 77-75 in overtime Dec. 19 at Madison Square Garden.

The Utes moved on quickly from that victory and headed into the holiday break with a 105-58 home win over Delaware State on Tuesday. They again finished with 30 assists on 37 field goals while setting season bests for points, 3-pointers (12) and bench points (50).

Kyle Kuzma finished with a game-high 15 and reserve Chris Reyes added 12 for Utah, which shot 61.7 percent from the floor. Jordan Loveridge, who averages 13.6 points, went 4 of 5 from the field and scored 14 after shooting 3 for 14 in the previous three games.

"Coach has been on us about team play. Having 30 assists, you usually don't see that from us," Reyes said. "Hopefully this carries on to when we come back for College of Idaho."

Utah has been getting it done on the defensive end, too. Its first nine opponents shot 43.5 percent, but the last three are shooting 31.3. The Utes are keeping opponents off the foul line as well, with four of the last five attempting 12 free throws or fewer.

Krystkowiak also was impressed with the Utes' demeanor leading up to the last game following the big win over Duke. He said he didn't have to make any speeches about the potential of suffering a letdown with everyone preparing just as hard as they did for the Blue Devils.

"That to me, it's respect for the game and trying to play the right way," Krystkowiak said. "Shame on us, when you have 30-some games to play if you come out and you are not where you need to be. That's not what we are about. I thought we did a pretty good job reacting and responding to that."

Utah now hopes to make easy work of College of Idaho (7-6) before it begins Pac-12 play with a Bay Area trip against Stanford on Friday and California on Sunday.

The Yotes are coming off a 93-88 loss at Corban on Dec. 19. Marck Coffin had a career-high 24 points, and leading scorer Joey Nebeker had 19 and seven rebounds for College of Idaho, which is averaging 84.1 points.

This will be the first time the Yotes have faced a Division I opponent since it lost 72-38 at Utah on Dec. 28, 2012.

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