Utah-Texas Tech Preview
(AP) - Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak entered his fifth season determined to keep momentum from last season's NCAA Sweet 16 run. He'll learn how well the No. 16 Utes can do that as they head to this week's Puerto Rico Tipoff in a demanding opening month.
Utah's trip to San Juan, starting with a game against Texas Tech on Thursday night, is part of a stretch of five games in 10 nights to open the season. The Utes (2-0) are coming off Monday's 81-76 win over a San Diego State team that has reached the NCAA Tournament for six straight seasons.
They're making the longest trip of the Tipoff teams at roughly 3,100 miles and a couple of time zones east - prompting Krystkowiak to quip that maybe his team should get ''a few points head start'' in games.
There's also a trip to No. 9 Wichita State and a game against fifth-ranked Duke at Madison Square Garden awaiting in December. The Tipoff field includes No. 22 Butler, Miami, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Missouri State, Temple and Texas Tech, with each team playing three games in four days.
''We had better not be thinking about it too much, the travel, and that is going to be part of our season,'' Krystkowiak said. ''We have some real challenging games. And we're going to see what we're made of here early in the season.''
Jordan Loveridge, Jakob Poeltl and Kyle Kuzma have led the way so far for Utah. Loveridge is averaging 22.5 points, Poeltl is at 20.5 and Kuzma has chipped in with 18.5 per game. Poeltl tops the Utes with 11.5 rebounds per game, Kuzma is right behind him at 9.5 and Loveridge grabs an average of 4.0.
Loveridge scored 21 and hit four 3-pointers Monday.
''This is my fourth year,'' said Loveridge, who averaged 10.0 points last season. ''You just get confidence each year. You know how the game goes, especially in big games like this. You get to be in these big games and you know how important each possession on offense and defense are.''
Utah would like to see Brandon Taylor get going. The senior guard is the leading returning scorer for the Utes (10.6) and has gone 0 for 9 and 3 for 9 in the first two games.
Taylor, though, hit an off-balance 3 as time expired in the first half Monday to give Utah a six-point lead.
"That was a big boost for us coming into halftime," Krystkowiak said. "(He's) getting a little bit of swagger back and feeling good about shooting the ball.''
Texas Tech felt good from the field in its season opener Friday, shooting 51.1 percent in a 77-73 victory over High Point. Devaugntah Williams had 26 points while going 9 of 14 overall and 4 of 7 from beyond the arc.
''It's a good win for us against a very good team,'' coach Tubby Smith said. ''It was a hard-fought game. It's hard to simulate the intensity level that you have to play with against a good team like High Point. But we're very happy to get a good win. I think it's just what the doctor ordered.''
Smith, however, didn't like that his team turned the ball over 17 times and let the Panthers shoot 58 percent in the second half.
''I think they exposed one of the weaknesses we've been talking about for awhile and that's containing the dribble-drive,'' Smith said. " ... The 17 turnovers I'm not happy with, at all. One of our goals is to keep it under 10.''
Utah won the first three meetings in this series before Texas Tech took the past three, the last one coming at MSG in November 2003.