Utah focuses inward as Idaho State visits

NCAA

If there’s ever a season to take it one game at a time, it’s this one.

After having its Nov. 27 nonconference opener against New Orleans canceled because of coronavirus concerns, Utah finally opened with a 76-62 Pac-12 victory against Washington on Thursday. Alfonso Plummer scored 21 points and Timmy Allen added 14 points and eight rebounds.

The Utes have a meeting with in-state rival BYU coming up on Saturday in Provo, Utah, but first they play host to Idaho State (0-3) on Tuesday.

Could the Utes get caught looking ahead to the Cougars?

“I don’t think anybody is thinking that far (ahead) yet,” Utah sophomore Mikael Jantunen said. “We are trying to go a day at a time, and first we are going to take care of business (Tuesday) and play a good game. Then we can look forward to what is next.”

Coach Larry Krystkowiak said the Utes expect to have all of their players available after COVID-19 swept through the program before Thanksgiving.

“Guys are doing a really good job of taking care of themselves and keeping out of harm’s way. I believe it has gotten everybody’s attention pretty quick,” said Krystkowiak, who had the virus late last month. “It has affected a lot of programs around the country. I am confident in our team and hopefully the Bengals have the same thing going on coming in here.”

Idaho State had a home game against Montana Western canceled over the weekend because of COVID-related issues with the prospective visiting team.

Despite getting 11.7 points per game from Tarik Cool, the Bengals have lost to Santa Clara, Nicholls State and UC Davis — all by nine points or more.

The Bengals have committed 69 turnovers through three games, perplexing coach Ryan Looney.

“We turned it over way too many times to win a college basketball game,” Looney said. “I think when you’re used to playing in high school or junior college, sometimes you can get away with those things. When you’re playing Division I, every possession matters, and our program is learning that in a hard way right now.”

Krystkowiak dismissed the idea the Utes might overlook Idaho State.

“It is not like we are trying to play any Jedi mind games and say, ‘Hey, the bigger game of the two is BYU,'” he said. “Because as practice went (Monday), we are going to have a hard time beating a lot of people if we don’t get a lot more fundamentally sound. And that’s where we need to start building, I think, an identity. … We can’t beat ourselves.”

–Field Level Media

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