Utah Men’s Basketball Hoping To End Road Woes In Los Angeles

Feb 15, 2024, 10:42 AM

SALT LAKE CITY –ย The Runnin’ Utes will be in Los Angeles this weekend taking on USC and UCLA in hopes of ending their road woes in conference play.

It’s no secret Utah fell flat against Arizona State in the lead up to their road trip. The loss has even cast some doubt amongst fans as to whether this team can “get it done” and stamp a ticket to the Big Dance.

Utah head coach Craig Smith was on hand earlier in the week to discuss the Utes’ shortcomings against ASU and what his team needs to do to finish the regular season strong.

Utah Basketball ‘Letting The Poison Out’

Upon further review of last Saturday’s loss to the Sun Devils, Smith says the Utes didn’t play as bad as he initially thought. However, he noted it’s hard because expectations are high, and they didn’t get it done at home where they have typically been very good.

“We have to really concentrate on what we are doing well, what we aren’t doing quite as well and how to get better,” Smith said. “The Saturday game, honestly, we played better than what I had thought when we rewatched the film. We did some things a lot better than I thought, but certainly there were some breakdowns there I thought more mentally than anything. Some of the guys looked a half-step slower than normal. Is that mental fatigue? Physical fatigue?”

With all of that said, Smith is confident his team is right where they need to be. Now it’s a matter of getting the bad taste out of their mouths and making the most of the games they know they have left.

“A friend who has been in the business a long time used to always say this, ‘you’ve got to let the poison out,'” Smith said. “I watched our game the night after the game- that Saturday night and of course again on Sunday and we’re prepping for UCLA and USC and we’re just not happy. You got to let the poison out. I know what we do works. You’re always trying to fine-tune it, tinker and put guys in a great position to succeed, but now we move on. We have seven regular season games left and a conference tournament game that is guaranteed. That’s eight games we know we have left in the season.”

Utah’s Sights Turned To USC, UCLA

That guaranteed eight game stretch for the Utes starts with USC on Thursday, February 15 with a 9:00 pm MT tip that fans can view on FS1.

The Trojans have struggled a lot this year sitting second to last in conference play. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t talented and capable of putting together a good game- especially now that they are healthier than they’ve been all season.

“They’ve had a lot of different injuries,” Smith said. “Boogie Ellis has had a hamstring going on for a while- I think he missed three games not too long ago. Isaiah Collier who I believe was the No. 1 rated recruit in last year’s class and at one point was projected to be the No. 1 pick in the Draft and is certainly still projected to be a lottery pick- he missed I believe six games with a hand injury. Just came back last weekend- he was really good last weekend in both their games. They are very talented; they just have had a lot of guys sustain various injuries throughout the course of the year.”

Smith went on to say that USC is deep, and they can play a lot of guys and that a lot of their guys have played out of necessity making them very experienced. It’s going to be up to Utah to figure out who the Trojans might be rolling with and how to stop them.

“We have to figure out who they are playing,” Smith said. “This is going to be a big personnel game. We really need to understand their personnel- what they do well and try to take it away. We’ve got to be better on the defensive end and then what do we have to do on the road? St. Mary’s is ranked in the Top 25- our first true road game- that was a heckuva win for us. That’s a Quad 1 win and we haven’t been nearly as good since for a multitude of reasons. I think at the end of the day, we’ve got to be better on the defensive end.”

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) andย The Saturday Showย (Saturday from 10 a.m.โ€“12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her onย X,ย Instagram, andย Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Utah Men’s Basketball Hoping To End Road Woes In Los Angeles