Utah basketball: Utes' defense lagging in Pac-12 losses

Pac-12 basketball • Utah allows Washington State to make 11 of 20 3-pointers.
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Pullman, Wash. • Larry Krystkowiak knew his Utah team was in for a difficult night when he read the Washington State student newspaper.

The story highlighted the Cougars' struggles shooting the basketball. It was a team shooting 32 percent from 3-point range and sporting an 0-3 Pac-12 record largely because of it.

And then, in a 75-65 win over Utah at the Beasley Coliseum, it all changed.

"You know how it is," Krystkowiak said. "You see an article about a team not being able to make shots, and that's exactly what they come out and do."

Washington State made 11 of 20 from 3-point land. The Cougars added to that total by making even more midrange jumpers. On a night in which Brock Motum struggled, it didn't matter because Michael Ladd and company were so hot from the perimeter.

"We didn't expect them to come out making jumpers like that," Utah freshman Justin Seymour said. "They hadn't been hitting like that before, so this was a surprise."

Through last Saturday, the Utes had been giving up 57 points per game. Then USC scored 76 and Washington State dropped in 75. In a season in which Utah's been able to hang its hat on an unrelenting defense, that defense has failed the Utes in the last 80 minutes.

With Utah trailing for virtually all of the last two games, the Utes have been forced to play faster than normal. That's resulted in some easy hoops for their opponents. Also, Utah hasn't been as good defensively guarding dribble penetration.

"We have to get better," senior center Jason Washburn said. "We have to get better defensively and in all phases. It will come. We will keep playing hard."