Utes hope non-league road games prepped them for UCLA, USC trip

Alina Rogers, Alina Rogers/University of Utah Athletics

Utah’s Donnie Tillman gets off a shot against Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. The Utes fell to the Bulldogs, 81-69. Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak hopes the experience helped prepare his team for this weekend’s games at UCLA and USC.

LOS ANGELES — The Utah Utes are on the road again. They’re in California for games at UCLA on Thursday and USC on Sunday.

The trip is Utah’s first since sweeping the Oregon schools in late December. Prior to opening Pac-12 play, the Utes prepped for games away from the Huntsman Center by taking on UNLV in Las Vegas and later heading to Butler and BYU for games.

“We played in three pretty raucous environments,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, who added that if you don’t do so in a preseason setting you can get a little shellshocked. “You want to try to experience the gamut, all the different things.”

Krystkowiak noted it’s a fine line between gaining confidence and really being challenged. Although Utah suffered double-digit setbacks in the non-conference road games, Krystkowiak believed it may have helped the Utes to go into those environments, get pounded, grow up and learn some lessons.

That’s why you play the preseason, he explained, to experience such things and do a better job handling it.

“So I thought our guys responded pretty well in Oregon but it’s not something you carry in your shaving kit. It’s not just an automatic deal,” Krystkowiak said. “You’ve got to earn it and be prepared. We’re going to jump in against a couple of different teams than the Oregon schools. It’s going to have a different storyline and we’re going to have to be ready.”

Senior forward David Collette acknowledged that going on the road is always tough. The Utes (10-5, 2-2) open this trip against first-place UCLA (12-4, 3-1) at Pauley Pavilion.

“Being on the road was kind of the first times in the preseason that we had been down and really faced some adversity,” Collette said. “So I think those helped us in the preseason to kind of figure out what we need to do to get a win on the road. We…

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