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Utah, BYU basketball teams suffer from same problem on the road

The Utah Utes and BYU Cougars do one thing, and one thing only, awfully well. They win at home.

Utah forward Jordan Loveridge of West Jordan goes up for a jump shot at No. 1 Arizona, a game the Utes lost 65-56.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Winning on the road, however, is a completely different story. Utah lost twice this week, once at Arizona State and once at Arizona, even leading the No. 1 Wildcats going into the second half on Sunday, January 26 -- before UA went on a massive run and closed out the game, winning 65-56.

BYU traveled to Portland only to play a three-overtime game -- which it lost 114-110. And then the Cougars turned around Saturday night to face No. 21 Gonzaga in the Kennel in Spokane, Wash. and that game wasn’t nearly as close as the thrilla in Chiles Center. For the record, the Cougars lost to John Stockton's son's team 84-69.

For Utah and BYU, winning on the road is about as common as hitting it big in the lottery … it simply doesn’t exist in this state.

The Utes have tried to break the code, yet every time they come close -- they fall short.

Same goes for the Cougars, who can’t seem to buy many road victories inside the cozy West Coast Conference gyms that look more like they’re suited for high school showdowns than for major college play.

Either way, both Utah and BYU are losing and their chances of getting a ticket to March Madness -- short of them winning their respective conference tournaments -- is fading fast.

So what gives? Why can’t the Utes and Cougars close out games when they aren’t playing in the friendly confines of their own arenas?

The answer is shooting. Utah shoots lights out in the first halves of Pac-12 Conference road games. In the second half, however, is where the Utes struggle.

BYU is much the same when it comes to shooting the ball -- but it's more than that with the Cougars. In WCC games they allow teams to shoot about 5 percent worse in the first half -- in comparison to the second half.

How do you change that? BYU head coach Dave Rose has a few ideas. First is not only shooting the ball better, it’s playing better defense on your opponent. Gonzaga shot 50 percent from the field in the first half -- but set the nets on fire in the second, hitting on 64 percent of its shots.

"They (Gonzaga) were just better than us in the second half. They were quicker than us. They scored on the first four or five possessions. We got the game back to where it was kind of manageable and then (Gonzaga guard Kevin) Pangos gets free,“ said Rose.

A similar thing has happened to Utah in Pac-12 road games -- but it really reared its ugly head Sunday night in Tucson because the Wildcats, ranked No. 1 in the country for a reason, predicate themselves on being the kind of team that will wear you down.

"To use a football analogy, it's a team that runs the ball," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "They grind on you and grind on you and eventually the defense gets tired of being on the field at the end of the game. There's a lot to be said for the way they play."

And there’s a lot to be said for the way both Utah and BYU play on the road -- which is why neither team is winning as many games as you would like.

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