Basketball more than any sport relies on fundamentals. If you lack it, you're not going to win many games. That was on full display Saturday as the Utes wilted in overtime and lost to the Oklahoma Sooners 78-73.
Certainly they had the talent to win this game. They did, after all, lead 42-36 at the break and managed a comeback to tie and send it to overtime. Yet, when they needed points the most - whether it was to take control at the end of regulation or in overtime - they came up empty. Without question, much of this has to do with basketball intelligence, poor shot selection and even worse free throw shooting.
I won't even begin to discuss the missed free throws at the end of regulation. Okay, I'll touch on it because I believe that's where the game was lost. Granted, Utah overcame them and forced it beyond regulation, however, that was where they really could have taken control of the game and because of three missed free throws by Carlon Brown, they didn't.
What did cost them the most, though, was the shot selection in overtime. Utah failed to play like a team with the lead, even though they had it. Instead of slowing the tempo down after forcing a few Oklahoma turnovers, they pushed and pushed and then settled for terrible shots that ultimately did not fall. Luka Drca should not be taking a three when Utah is either up or tied with minutes left. They literally shot themselves out of the win tonight.
That is fundamentals and something the Utes have lacked a good portion of the season. To be good and to contend with the elite of the conference, they can't afford ill-advised shots, stupid turnovers or missed free throws. In short, they must shore up their fundamentals or this team is going to get killed more often than not.
Of course, I don't want to sound like I'm completely disappointed with this team. Utah battled a decent Oklahoma program and played well in stretches. Like I said, they have the talent to be really good. And maybe it's the inexperience that's creating a big bulk of the problems. But I can't help but look at the last ten games and see missed opportunities. There is no excuse for this team to be 5-5. At worst, they should probably be 7-3.
Hopefully these mistakes are corrected and by January this team is playing smarter. But right now, it is very difficult watching them struggle like they do.