NCAA Portland: Larry Krystowiak, Utah Players

The Utah head coach, Larry Krystkowiak and players Jakob Poeltl and Delon Wright, talk about the Utes' 57-50 win over Stephen F. Austin in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Portland...

THE MODERATOR: We have Utah head coach and student-athletes. Coach, we'll open with an opening statement from you.

COACH KRYSTKOWIAK: Well, it's a terrific team that we just played. Very difficult. I think of the 68 teams that started the NCAA tournament, you'd be hard-pressed to find any of those teams that was as demanding when it came to a preparation. Coach Underwood does a great job offensively. Those kids play together. It's like a machine, their offense. Really, really challenging to defend them. Then, as you witnessed, defensively they create a lot of different opportunities for themselves with unusual type of pressure, up the line. That was our Achilles' heel tonight, was taking care of the basketball. That was a really good basketball team. I haven't thought about this as being any kind of seed. I felt like the underdog all week. I think our kids have, too. Unbelievable defense. Our defense was as good as it's been all year to hold that team to the percentages and point totals of them scoring 50 points. That's what won the game for us, was our defensive intensity. We managed to make enough points and made plays going down the stretch to win the game.

THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up now for questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Jakob, you were able to play 33 minutes and avoid foul trouble. What was the key to that tonight?
JAKOB POELTL: I just tried to be aggressive, like build up walls, not try to hack my opponents, get dumb fouls. Well, I managed to stay out there.

Q. Delon, what was it like playing in the building where your brother plays? Was that on your mind at all during the game, leading up to the game?
DELON WRIGHT: It wasn't really on my mind. I think it kind of got out of the way yesterday when we came in to shoot. I was just like thinking that he plays in here. I haven't really put too much thought into that.

COACH KRYSTKOWIAK: We had a couple practices at the Blazer practice facility. Our guys got to soak some of that up, I thought. See his brother's picture on the wall, stats. That was a great experience for us yesterday. We need to thank the Blazers for opening up the facility. It was hard to find a practice time. We did our shootaround there today. That was a pretty special thing I thought for our student-athletes to get a chance to do that.

Q. Delon, with a team like that, that just smothers you when you cross that line, how difficult is it to get the offense moving and distribute the ball to your teammates?
DELON WRIGHT: It was real tough. Their guard did a good job of giving it to me, not letting me get to where I wanted to go. In a sense, it was kind of a one-on-one match. I just had to try to beat him. They helped off, I had to find one of my teammates for an open shot, an open layup. They did a good job of pressuring me.

Q. Talk about the significance of the number seven. The players said 7:07 was a special moment for you?
COACH KRYSTKOWIAK: It goes back to when I was a little kid. I was watching a religious channel, and there was about a half an hour show that was talking about the significance of number seven. It was also at the same time when I was pretty impressionable with figuring out what my lucky number was. It's been my lucky number, crazy, picking jerseys. These guys know the significance. We always leave for our bus, like we left today at 3:13, it added up to seven. When I looked up, we had a little bit of a lead with 7:07. I blasted that into our huddle. I just think it's something to believe in. Beyond that superstition, I don't have much of one. If I latch on to that number, it felt good to look up at that clock at that time.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. We'll continue with questions for coach.

Q. Walkup got some stuff late, but you did a good job on him. Talk about the defensive job on him.
COACH KRYSTKOWIAK: Heck of a player. He and Parker. I don't know if I've watched as much tape on any team as these guys. It's a really good offensive team. Those guys have been playing together. They're as fundamentally sound as any two guys. We see in Walkup in person, the physical nature, tough kid, scrapping, on the floor, second shots, up and under, post stuff. Just kind of a throwback a little bit. I was nervous about playing both of those guys. Not as much of a three-point shooter as Parker. But much more of an attack-minded basketball player. He caused us problems going down the stretch, not just with offense, but he had a couple of steals. The kid knows how to play. I complimented he and Parker after the game, now that we'd beat them, how nice it was to watch old school basketball, fundamentally sound kids, and they all played together. And Brad does a nice job of coaching those guys.

Q. You finally get that first win of the NCAA tournament. You said you didn't want to be just a team that shows up to the tournament. The first time Utah has actually won the first game in 10 years. Talk about what that means to you as an individual, as well as the university.
COACH KRYSTKOWIAK: Well, I'm really proud to be sitting here certainly after a win. I don't want to understate the significance of that. But I also shared with our basketball team in the locker room some of my personal experience, the one year at Montana when we actually played at Salt Lake. We were a 12 seed, we beat Nevada and advanced to play Boston College. I was ecstatic. The Big Sky hadn't won a tournament game, Montana hadn't won a tournament game. That was a special deal to me. I shared with them that I probably got caught up in that moment too much. It kind of hit the deal button and was good to just move on. I didn't realize, you know, what it really took at the next level. So I want our guys to understand that it's a great accomplishment to win a game, but that wasn't the goal of our season. It's important for us to stay really humble and hungry here in the next 48 hours and get our players rested. Our staff has been on the prep. I'll put our assistant coaches up with any in America with getting their team ready. They're out courtside now figuring who it is that we play. This isn't about a goal of reaching any point. I mentioned it to our fellas today, it's about winning the first play of the game, then trying to win the second play. Really you reflect back on whatever success you had at the end of the season. But it's very much a 'survival of the fittest' mentality that I'm trying to instill in our guys. So we cannot be complacent or satisfied with what we've done up to this point.

Q. What kind of vibe did you get from your guys tonight?
COACH KRYSTKOWIAK: Two elements to that. Part of that is how difficult it is to prep for Stephen F. Austin. I would say we spent 90-plus percent of our time this week figuring out how to guard 'em. If you watched enough of their games, it's kind of what you look like with Delon. It's in your face at halfcourt, and four guys are finger touching people. It really invites you to play one-on-one. It's unusual. It's hard to replicate in practice. So a lot of it was film work offensively, here's what they're going to do, here's what you're presented with, can you go finish at the rim, draw a foul, drop it off to a big, can that big finish, find an open guy for a three. Dakarai hit a couple big threes. It was a really simplified offensive plan. It was more of a mindset. We didn't exactly hit a home run with it with our turnovers. We made the game really difficult on ourselves offensively. I'll still take it because we focused on stopping 'em and we didn't have to score but 51 points as it turned out. The old adage that the defense can win some championships I thought was the key, and we managed to make enough plays. But the mindset was great. I told our guys I'm not sure we guarded anybody that well all year. That was a lot better team than 50 points. They put up a lot of points against a lot of people. Kudos to them for being locked in and doing the job they did defensively.

Q. You talked yesterday a little bit about having some guys step up other than the usual suspects. What were the odds of you winning a game with Brandon and Delon getting three field goals and still winning that game?
COACH KRYSTKOWIAK: That's awesome. That's what we were talking about. Sometimes you take Delon for granted. Brandon played a great tournament in Vegas. That's the nature of certainly college basketball where we limited Parker, for example, who was lights out going down the stretch for them, managed to keep him 0-8. There's so much prep involved with the NCAA tournament. I'm sure they looked at Delon and Brandon's success in Vegas. Brandon didn't have many looks. In order for us to be successful, it's just what we talked about yesterday, we need guys to step up. I thought Dakarai, some threes, Jordan played some plays, Jakob made some plays. Maybe one of the key players of the game was the little guard Isaiah Wright who got some key offensive rebounds and managed make three out of four free throws. It was enough. Those guys maybe exceeded it. You know, I don't know that it's a bad thing. You have a couple guys that maybe didn't play up to their normal game, Brandon and Delon. They may have a little bit of an edge on them, not resting on their laurels. We need the consistency of everybody else at the same time. I think that's the definition of a team.

Q. Brad Underwood had just praised Jakob's play on defense. What did you feel like affected that tonight and how he did?
COACH KRYSTKOWIAK: He was dialed in. Jakob was really dialed in. We did a lot of switching. As I said, that offense that they run is really hard to guard. Jakob ended up on the perimeter against some guys, blocked six shots I think. Big-time blocks at the end of the game. So he managed to get out and put heat on guys. I thought he protected the rim for us well at the same time. He's been an anchor for us when we can keep him out of foul trouble. I thought he had the right mindset. That's part of being a freshman, that experience of what is acceptable and what's not. I thought he was really sound in keeping people in front of him, at the rim didn't come down and hack guys. He's been a key to our success and part of the reason that we've struggled in the last eight games when we can't keep him on the floor. You lose a key component and a nice weapon. For his ability to stay out there and focus without fouling I thought was huge. He was in my mind the player of the game for us on both sides of the ball.

Q. Now that the game is done, in a sense is it better for you guys to get a taste of having the game be so close and maybe help them prepare for round two as opposed to if it was a blowout?
COACH KRYSTKOWIAK: Yeah. This time of year you don't see many blowouts. I was peeking in and out of the stations today, going back and forth. There's a common denominator short of the Arizona game. A lot of those games came down to the wire. We got a sense of that. We had a bunch of blowouts early in the season, as you know. The last eight games or so, five or six of them have kind of come down to the wire. So we've tasted it a little bit. I don't think it really makes any difference the style of the game, if you get the W. It's the experience of being here, us looking at some film on our breakdowns, trying to get a little bit better, figuring out who it is we're trying to play. The experience of the tournament, first and foremost, is probably the key regardless of the outcome of the game.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much. Good luck on Saturday.


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