November 11, 2014

Utah took advantage of three straight home games to open Pac-12 play last season en route to what was easily its best showing in its brief tenure in the conference.

The 21st-ranked Utes don't have that luxury this season and begin a three-game road stretch to open their league schedule Friday night against Stanford.

Utah won its first four Pac-12 games in 2014-15 on its way to finishing 13-5 and in a second-place tie with Oregon. The Utes were a combined 17-37 in their first three seasons in the conference, including 3-24 on the road.

In order to improve on last season's 5-4 league mark away from home, Utah will likely need a better start than in its latest game.

The Utes (11-2) trailed 16-2 after the first 3:45 against the College of Idaho on Monday but held a double-digit lead by halftime in a 115-74 rout over the NAIA school.

"We weren't ready to play from the tip-off. It really got our attention. We have to be better," coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "A heads up as we head into league play. We have to get dialed in and make sure we're doing a lot better job."

Dakarai Tucker had a season-high 17 points as Krystkowiak made good use of his bench and tied Kyle Kuzma for the team lead. Kuzma is averaging 17.8 points on 56.0 percent shooting in his last four games.

Jakob Poeltl made all six of his shots while scoring 15 points and added 10 rebounds in his 22 minutes for his seventh double-double this season.

Utah lost its only previous road game 67-50 against Wichita State on Dec. 12, but topped then-No. 7 Duke 77-75 in overtime Dec. 19 as part of a 3-1 mark at neutral sites.

The Utes swept their two meetings with Stanford last season by a combined 40 points but didn't face the Cardinal (7-4) in Palo Alto. Utah has lost each of its three visits in Pac-12 play and four in a row overall since a 99-91 victory Jan. 23, 1971.

Stanford won five of its final six nonconference games following three consecutive losses in November. Two of those defeats were against teams that are currently ranked - Villanova and SMU - but only Villanova was in the Top 25 at the time.

The Cardinal fell 59-45 to the then-No. 8 Wildcats on Nov. 26 in the NIT Season Tip-Off and have lost five in a row to ranked teams, including last season's losses to Utah.

Stanford also faced an NAIA opponent in its latest game Sunday but was a lot better than Utah at the start, jumping out to a 17-2 lead in an 83-38 victory over Carroll College of Montana.

Sophomore swingman Dorian Pickens scored 18 and is averaging 19.5 on 53.7 percent shooting in his last four games, including a combined 15 of 28 from 3-point range.

"We believe in Dorian and what he is capable of," coach Johnny Dawkins said. "And he's not where he's going to be. He's hitting his stride. We watch it in practice and now we're seeing it translate."

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