The Runnin’ Utes are on the road again this week as they travel to face the California Bears on Thursday, Feb. 2. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
Utah is coming off a 86-78 win over the Oregon State Beavers, but it wasn’t without difficulty. The Utes were up by 28 points during the second half, however, the Beavers managed to claw their way back into the game. With under a minute left it was a six point game. Although the Utes managed to fend of Oregon State’s comeback, there were a few deficiencies that head coach Larry Krystkowiak was going to address in practice this week.
One thing that has troubled Utah all season long has been its free throw shooting. The Utes were just above 50 percent from the line this past Saturday night, and while Krystkowiak often does not like to pay attention to numbers, that low percentage from the stripe is something he cannot ignore.
Krystkowiak was hoping to install some more game-like scenarios with free throw shooting, but forward David Collette thinks it’s hard to replicate what will actually happen in an arena as opposed to the days leading up.
“It’s different shooting free throws in practice than shooting them in the game,” Collette said. “It’s hard to simulate [the same environment], but there are times in practice where we take it a little more seriously and focus a little more.”
Going into a tough environment like Cal, the Utes are going to have to sharpen up on all fronts. Collette has re-entered the fold after sitting out the last road trip due to concussion-like symptoms, and he, too, understands the Utes can’t slack off in any given moment during the game.
Collette has gotten himself into foul trouble often times this season. Although he tries to be conscious of where his hands are, he is still going to play aggressively.
“I’m always trying to not get fouls, but at the same time I don’t want to play timid,” Collette said. “I want to do the best I can, but there are some silly fouls that can probably be eliminated.”
Cal’s roster boosts a more experienced team than Utah’s does, so the Utes are hoping they can expose some of the Bears’ deficiencies, but it is a tall task.
Krystkowiak thinks the Bears have threats at almost every position, so his team will have to go in with a defensive mindset rather than an offensive one where they are trying to outscore Cal.
“I’ve got a bunch of concerns,” Krystkowiak said. “They have some real talented players and heading into the Bay Area it’s going to take some strong mindedness. You have to be a little better when you’re going up against teams as strong as they are. The margin for error is less.”
As the Pac-12 standings remain the same heading into Thursday night’s matchup, Utah and Cal are tied for that fourth spot with a 6-3 conference record. Although there’s still more than a month to go until the Pac-12 Tournament, the team is keeping in mind that it’s those top four teams who get a bye on the first day of the tournament.