Utah coach Krystkowiak says time to put 'big boy pants' on

Feb 9, 2016 - 11:53 PM SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak had an enlightened moment during yoga Monday morning. The word `'compassion'' is a concept he often uses with his team and in the way he's built the program, but the yoga instructor gave Krystkowiak another definition.

''Compassion is not necessarily to be confused with empathy, where you could feel sorry for somebody,'' Krystkowiak explained Tuesday. ''But compassion was more the concept of, you have to struggle together. If you want to take action rather than feeling sorry for somebody, jump in their shoes with them and try to lift them up and help them. It was just a real unique and interesting twist on a word that's already in our program.

''We're struggling. We've got a couple of losses. We've got to go deal with it. Just as in the yoga class, let's find a way to pick each other up and try to lift the level of our play.''

Krystkowiak admitted time is running out for the Utes to accomplish their goals. Utah (17-7, 6-5) fell to sixth in the Pac-12 after losing to Oregon State and Oregon last week, two irritating losses.

The frustration stems from the way the Utes lost more than anything.

Utah led Oregon State by 10 points with under 7:30 remaining, but threw the game away with unforced turnovers and senior Brandon Taylor fouling Stephen Thompson on a halfcourt heave with time expiring. Thompson made three free throws for a 71-69 win.

The Utes then piled up 14 turnovers, which Oregon scored 19 points off, in a 76-66 loss.

''Some of it's some ownership from our players to not make that mistake,'' Krystkowiak said. ''Be tougher on themselves. It's really hard to coach a couple elements. ... It's also kind of hard to coach `smart' at times. Let's ask our guys to be smarter and less mistake-prone.

''Let's just take some ownership, put on our big boy pants and not be as willing to give into some mistakes. Be a little tougher-minded and do what's being asked of you. That's what I'd ask our guys to do. I don't want to chew guys out and punish anybody, but we're at the point of the season with a little over a month to go where we're either going to get it or not. I think we've learned enough lessons that that when we don't play very intelligently, that can be just as disastrous as not playing hard.''

Utah had won five straight before the winless road trip. The Utes currently have the No. 16 RPI, but haven't been ranked in 2016. Their signature win was against then-No. 7 Duke, but the Blue Devils have since fallen out of the poll. That leaves the Utah without a win against a team currently ranked.

But the Utes still have the opportunity to rebound. They host Washington (15-8, 7-4) on Wednesday and Washington State (9-14, 1-10) on Sunday. Utah still has to play No. 17 Arizona and No. 23 USC. It finishes the regular season with five of seven games at home after starting conference play with seven of eleven on the road. And the roster is still comprised of Pac-12 player of the year candidate Jakob Poeltl, seniors Taylor and Jordan Loveridge and second-leading scorer and rebounder Kyle Kuzma.

The talent is there to make another run in the NCAA Tournament after advancing to the Sweet 16 in 2015. Krystkowiak said the time is now to eliminate the variety of small mistakes that have hung like a cloud over the team recently.

''We don't have time to sit down and have a bunch of discussions and team meetings and individual meetings,'' Krystkowiak said. ''We're at the point, it's survival of the fittest here with seven to go. ... It hasn't killed us, what we've gone through.

''How we bounce back and what state of mind we're in is probably going to be determined more by the game tomorrow. ... The most important thing for us ... is to be ready to bounce back and have a little resiliency and do whatever we need to do to get a win.''

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