Larry Krystkowiak digs underdog role, looks forward to Arizona matchup
LAS VEGAS – Could a matchup against the No. 1 seed Arizona Wildcats actually be less stressful for the Utah Utes than facing the No. 9 seed Washington Huskies? Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak thinks so.
After the No. 8 seed Utes dropped Washington 67-61 in the opening round of the Pac-12 tournament on Wednesday, Krystkowiak got lost in his thoughts for a moment. Asked how the Utes' demeanor would be at noon Thursday against the No. 4 nationally-ranked Wildcats, he said he welcomes the opportunity.
“I'm not a big fan of being the favorite in any game. I've always liked the underdog role,” he started off before catching himself in a minute of free-flowing thought.
“What was your question again?” Krystkowiak said, returning to the question posed to him. “Oh, demeanor. That's what I was blabbing about. We're obviously not the favorite against Arizona.”
Utah dropped both regular season games against the Wildcats, first falling by nine points in Tucson. Krystkowiak called the loss an “eye-opening” situation that revealed rebounding issues for the Utes. Yet, it might be a key part of returning the favor to the Wildcats on Thursday.
[Related video: Larry Krystkowiak on first-round win over Washington]
“We held them to 33 percent (shooting), but they were 1-for-3 every time they went down the floor, and they ended up scoring on their second offensive rebound,” Krystkowiak said. “That's just Russian roulette. That will kill you every time.”
It seems that Utah took the first loss to Arizona to heart, following up a battering on the offensive glass with a hard-fought, 67-63 overtime loss on Feb. 19. In that game, Krystkowiak's squad won the rebounding battle 37-31 overall. And on Wednesday, the Utes were the ones beating the Huskies on the offensive glass, scoring 15 second-chance points and winning the battle of the boards 38-29.
The win earned Utah one more shot at Arizona.
“It's the one team in the Pac-12 that we've not won a basketball game against, and we got a lot of booby prizes along the way, consolation prizes and 'atta-boys' and 'way to go,' ” Krystkowiak said.
“We're not the favorites,” he added. “I like that element. Don't have nearly the nervous feeling I had maybe leading into this game, and hopefully our guys are feeling the same thing.”