Utah simply ran out of gas.
The Runnin' Utes, who looked to do the improbable, proved to be mere mortals Friday night in their loss to the Oregon Ducks. Struggling for much of the game, Utah found themselves fighting back huge deficits, scoring droughts, a bad offense and an inability to rebound.
It was painful to watch at times, especially since this team did feel like one of destiny, but it was clear early on that it just wasn't going to be their night.
And it wasn't.
Credit Oregon. They played a smothering defense that took Utah out of their rhythm and with the addition of fatigue, Utah stood little chance. The talent gap is still too big to realistically expect the Utes to contend one-on-one with a team that came a game away from winning the Pac-12 regular season title.
But Utah still should be proud of its effort in Vegas. No one expected 'em to make it past the first round, let alone to the semifinals, and they did. They shocked California, a team that had dominated the brief series between these two schools, and maybe, had it not been for their third game in three nights, they could have done the same against the Ducks.
That didn't happen and now the Utes have almost certainly ended their season. They have too few wins to be considered for the NIT and the CBI or CIT are unlikely to take a team with a losing record. So, Friday was likely the last game we've seen from Jason Washburn, Cedric Martin and Jarred DuBois - at least in a Utes' uniform. It wasn't the most ideal season, or the most ideal ending to it, but it was still memorable enough for that mini-run in the Pac-12 Tournament. It's hard to downplay just what it meant to a program that's struggled the last four years.
Hopefully it's the beginning of something good. Still, as optimistic I am about the future, I think this run will prove how much we'll miss DuBois. As inconsistent as he was, when he played well, Utah often won and when he didn't - they almost always lost. Washburn too - who wasn't necessarily as strong as he could have been in the conference tournament.
Still, Jordan Loveridge shined in Vegas this week and I'm excited to see what another year does to his talent. Brandon Taylor too.
Not the ending we wanted - but it was definitely a salvaged season when you consider where we were earlier in the month. Here's to a better 2014.