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Utah basketball's newest practice innovation comes straight out of the old-school handbook.
The Utes left their multi-million-dollar basketball practice facility vacant in favor of the Huntsman Center for the first two practices of the week. Any Ute who turns the ball over has to run up to the arena concourse and back down again.
Hurry, you're on the clock, too.
"No one wants to run these Huntsman stairs," senior guard Brandon Taylor said. "You have to take pride in taking care of the ball."
The Runnin' Utes dusted off the practice from early on in coach Larry Krystkowiak's tenure after giving up 19 turnovers that led directly to 25 Wichita State points in a loss on Saturday.
"It just has to hurt, you know?" Krystkowiak said.
The turnovers hurt Utah an awful lot in the 67-50 defeat to the Shockers, and the problem could hurt more in the coming week against two pressure defenses in Savannah State and Duke.
Krystkowiak acknowledged that his team has struggled to replicate pressure defenses in practice by contrast, Utah's scheme is not as aggressive. He also acknowledged that the coaching staff has put a lot on Taylor's shoulders by moving him to point guard this season.
Taylor's points, shooting percentages and assist-to-turnover ratio have all dropped this season, and for that, the coaches will take some of the heat.
"He's got guys typically [going against him] who are bigger and stronger than he is, and guys are getting physical with him," Krystkowiak said. "We haven't done a very good job of finding him for open shots, and that's why maybe he's struggling from the field."
There's been some schematic and philosophical changes behind closed doors to address the offensive issues. While the Utes are guarding any and all aces up their sleeve while preparing to face No. 7 Duke on Saturday, the gist is this: more simplicity, more aggressiveness, less improvisation.
Krystkowiak conjured up the imagery of the offense on "railroad tracks."
"We're trying to create more spacing, be more aggressive with the ball, have more urgency stuff like that," sophomore center Jakob Poeltl said. "We're really going to try to put a point of emphasis on that kind of stuff."
They may not all be permanent changes: On the whole, Utah has the top-rated offense by efficiency in the conference. But against guards who can pressure and fluster Utah's ball-handlers, it was clear new ideas were needed.
And at least this week, pressure defense will be just about all Utah sees.
"That's going to be the theme leading up to Christmas," Krystkowiak said. "It's a combination of coming up with the proper offense that maybe we don't have to deal with creating leads and creating perfect, some concepts from the coaches to try to make it easier. Then our players have to take it more to heart to make sure they're more dialed in and not turning the ball over."
The Utes hope there's not a lot of stairs between now and where they hope to be in the turnover department.
P At the Huntsman Center
Tipoff • 6 p.m.
TV • Pac-12 Networks
Radio • ESPN700
Records • Savannah St. (4-5); Utah (7-2)
Series history • Utah leads, 2-0
Last meeting • Nov. 23, 2013 at Utah; Utah 71, Savannah St. 57
About the Tigers • Savannah State is led by a pair of guards in Chris Martin (13.2 ppg) and Troyce Manassa (13.3 ppg). … The Tigers' last win was a 76-67 victory over Georgia Southern, which is Duke's opponent this week before taking on the Utes. … Savannah State is one of the better turnover-forcing defenses in the country, ranking No. 89 nationally with 19.0 opponent turnovers per game.
About the Utes • Sophomore center Jakob Poeltl leads the Pac-12 and is No. 11 nationally with 69.8 percent shooting on field goals. … The Utes give up the fewest fouls of any Pac-12 team, ranking No. 19 nationally with 16.4 fouls per game. … For Utah's Toys for Tots promotion, fans can earn free upper bowl tickets by bringing an unwrapped toy to the game.