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Utah Utes head coach Larry Krystkowiak argues with a referee during the game against the Oregon Ducks at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)
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Krystkowiak Wants Better Execution Against USC, UCLA

Utah Utes head coach Larry Krystkowiak argues with a referee during the game against the Oregon Ducks at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – At the halfway point of the Pac-12 Conference schedule, Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak wants his team to do one thing: take care of the basketball.

Likening giving the ball away on a careless possession to an interception return in football, Krystkowiak said in his weekly press conference that better ball security can affect many other aspects of the game.

“I think that defensively we’ve improved but some of our efficiency numbers haven’t because of our inability to defend kind of a pick-six kind of deal. I just know that’s kind of the mojo that gets sucked out of a building when you’re at home and gets runs going,” said Krystkowiak.

Execution, Maturity, Toughness

He also said that not turning the ball over requires a few things; execution and toughness particularly.

“That takes a maturity and a little bit of toughness, I don’t think people think about toughness and ball security in the same sentence but it really is kind of an unwillingness to give the ball away to the other team, as simple as that sounds,” said Krystkowiak.

It makes sense, a clean possession can lead to better shots which either go in or be rebounded by either team. It’s much easier to defend an opposing team coming off a made basket or a rebound rather than giving up a fast break off a turnover.

When giving up more than 15 turnovers in a game, the Utes are 1-5. The Utes have also committed more turnovers than their opponents 14 times this season.

‘4-Point Swing’

“It’s amazing to me how many of those turnovers turn into points,” said Krystkowiak, who recalled an instance against Oregon where the Utes were forced to foul the Ducks after committing a turnover. At the time the Ducks were in the bonus and got to shoot two shots at the line.

“That is the proverbial 4-point swing,” said Krystkowiak.

Knowing that they’ll be facing two differing defenses this weekend against USC and UCLA, the Utes spent a large part of practice on Monday working on doing things cleanly on offense.

“Spent the day yesterday on offense execution against man and zone, which we’ll see both this weekend in Southern California,” said Krystkowiak.

The Utes will face USC Wednesday at 9 p.m. on the Pac-12 Network. They’ll battle UCLA Saturday at 3 p.m. on FOX.