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Utes 62, Cougars 60: The rest of the story


FROM SALT LAKE CITY – The post-mortem continues. Read on for some notes, quotes and observations from tonight’s loss to Utah.

(As promised, here’s a link to our game story. And here's the angle from the Utah side, where they're rejoicing the avoidance of an 0-18 season.)

Ken Bone says he’s got a bunch of good guys on his team, which isn’t a bad thing, necessarily.

But it is when they lack the “killer instinct,” as Bone called it, to jump on and put away inferior teams such as Utah. Because the Cougars started poorly, defended poorly, missed their free throws and didn’t execute well offensively, the Utes were able to hang around. Then they were able to believe they could win. Then they won. WSU responded nicely to the shooting assault Oregon applied to them, then took the floor at the Huntsman Center and laid an egg from the get-go. That can’t continue to happen, especially on the road.

“I think we have a great group of kids, and there’s times that can hurt you,” Bone said, in what was the most telling quote of the night. “I’m not sure we have that killer instinct that we need to compete. We’ve got to get that if we’re going to win consistently.”

Maybe tonight will drive home this point: if they can’t flip that switch soon enough to beat a team like Utah comfortably – or at all – then they simply can’t get away with doing that against anyone. This is a team at its best when sharing the basketball and contesting shots. If their lack of focus or energy prevents their success in either of those departments, it's going to be a long day.

As Bone said, they bounced back nicely from the Oregon loss to open the conference season, but that “I’m not sure what to expect this time.” A much tougher task awaits in Boulder on Saturday, as red-hot Colorado has won five straight and is coming off tonight’s 87-69 pasting of Washington.

Brock Motum spoke tonight about the need to strike first, force the issue instead of just countering the opponent’s jabs, to borrow a clichéd boxing expression. Colorado is likely going to see tonight’s result in Salt Lake and try to do the exact same thing.

“When we got the five point-whatever lead, we need to get a stop and make it a seven point lead, get a stop and make it a nine point lead,” Motum said. “Man … we just didn’t get consecutive big stops down the stretch when we really needed them. We need to get those crucial stops and boards, and I don’t think we did the best job of that.”

Said Reggie Moore: “We just weren’t focused.”

Bone described the mood of the team as “very down. We’re extremely disappointed losing a game like that. We didn’t deserve to win.”

Before the game we mentioned Faisal Aden’s minutes as something to keep an eye on. Well, he played considerably more tonight than last week – 17 minutes as opposed to nine on Saturday. And he got his money’s worth, shooting the ball 12 times (tied for team-high with Motum), making four of them. He finished with 11 points.

I asked Bone about Aden’s role after the game. Here’s what he said: “Trying to work him back in. What he brings to the team is making baskets, and if he’s not making baskets, then I need to consider other kids.”

Of Moore’s jumper at the end of regulation, Bone said in his radio remarks that he was “disappointed. At the end of regulation it is time to attack the rim and we settled for a jumper. That is disappointing.”

Some quotes from the Utah side …

Guard Josh Watkins: “My teammates opened up for me. Cedric [Martin], [Chris] Hines and Washburn were making shots and so I just let it come to me. At the end, when the guys tried to over-play me, all I had to do was stop and he kept going, so I just had to rise up and take that shot. No doubt that show was going down. Me and the coaches worked on that all week. … They told me that guys were going to try to block my shot.”

Guard Chris Hines: “We all know Jiggy [Watkins] can score. He can score on the outside and the inside, so when he has the ball we know we have a chance.”

Coach Larry Krystkowiak on getting first Pac-12 win: “It feels really good because starting Monday, when we came back focused, we had three practices as good as we have had since I’ve been here. Everybody was focused, it was dialed in. Today’s shootaround couldn’t have gone nay better. It’s more of a relief for our guys. I think we did it right this week. It is a tough one to swallow when we don’t win and it is a big boost for us when we do.”

All for now. We’ll be back on at some point Friday, though it may not be in the morning due to another early flight.

Christian Caple can be reached at Twitter: @ChristianCaple

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