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Utah Basketball Looks To Bounce Back Against Washington State After Disappointing Loss

Utah basketball forward Timmy Allen. (Photo courtesy of Utah Athletics)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah men’s basketball team ended their four-game homestand with a disappointing loss to Cal but will try to get past that when they face Washington State.

Utah basketball has struggled over the last month and will try to go on the road and beat Washington State. The road has not been kind to the Utes. Their last true road win in conference play was against the Cougars in the final regular season road game of the 2018-19 season. They last won a true road game in their 2019-20 season opener at Nevada.

The second half woes in three of the last four games have stuck out like a sore thumb. That is something that head coach Larry Krystkowiak addressed when he met with the media on Tuesday afternoon.

How Utah Basketball Can Correct Second Half Woes

The Runnin’ Utes played Oregon, Colorado, Stanford and California, all within a span of one week and all were at home. They had great first half performances in all four games, but can’t say the same about the second half. Utah was +41 in the first half of those four games, holding double digit leads in all but one game (9-point lead against Stanford).

In the second half of those four games, Utah was -49 and outscored their opponent once in four opportunities. So, what’s the issue with the second half of games for the Utes, Larry Krystkowiak explains.

“It’s more trying to play like we did in the first half,” Krystkowiak said. “We watch a lot of the video, the reason that we get out 10-point leads against those teams is because we’re really dialed in. It coincides with another team going in and making some adjustments and we’ve come out of the locker room and haven’t necessarily played the same style of basketball. We’re trying to be more consistent, find an identity and some DNA and be consistent with that.”

Now looking ahead to road games, this trip will be the fourth and fifth games away from the Huntsman Center this season. The Runnin’ Utes lost to BYU in Provo and was swept by UCLA and USC in Southern California.

Utah was outscored in the first half 112-77 and 105-93 in the second half of their three road games this season. So, that would be the opposite of what the Utes experienced at home in their last four games. The key will be to get off to a good start on the road just like their last four home games.

What Washington State Brings To The Matchup

The Utes are currently sitting in 9th place in the Pac-12 standings, while Washington State is just ahead of them in 8th. The Cougars are 9-4 overall and 2-4 in conference play. They have wins over Texas Southern, Eastern Washington, Oregon State, Idaho, Portland State, Montana State, Prairie View A&M, Northwestern State and California. Their losses came against Arizona, Stanford, UCLA and USC.

Washington State is currently on a three-game losing streak after losing to Stanford and the Southern California schools on the road. Isaac Bonton is their best player, who is averaging 18.9 points (2nd in Pac-12), 4.5 rebounds and 1.9 steals (2nd in Pac-12) per game. Big man Efe Abogidi is a force on the defensive end, averaging 9.9 points, 8.2 rebounds (2nd in Pac-12) and 1.9 blocks (2nd in Pac-12) per contest.

Utah has dominated the series with Washington State. All-time, they lead 25-3 and are 13-2 since becoming conference foes. The Runnin’ Utes have won the last 12 games and are 5-2 in Pullman.

The Utes only played the Cougars once last season and picked up a 76-64 win on January 25, 2020 at the Jon M. Huntsman Center.

In the NET rankings, Utah is No. 114 after dropping two spots following their loss to Cal. They are the 7th highest ranked team in the conference, while Washington State is just behind the Utes at No. 118. In the KenPom rankings, Utah is No. 76 with Wazzu at No. 129.

Tip-off between the Utes and Cougars in red will be at 8 p.m. MST on Thursday, January 21. The game will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for KSLSports.com and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASportsYou can download and listen to the podcast, here.