The pattern is clear: Utah is struggling.
In losing to the Wyoming Cowboys in Laramie Saturday night, the Utes have now lost a season high 4 straight and are in danger of yet another losing Mountain West record. Unless they can somehow win their next two -- which seems unlikely, since they play at Las Vegas -- Utah appears to be destined for a 7-9 conference finish. A one game improvement over last year's 6-10 record.
The loss marks another chapter in Utah's up and down season under first year head coach Jim Boylen. The disappointing play, especially down the stretch for the Utes, has been the only consistent thing about them. And it's plagued their season, bringing up some serious doubts about whether this team is any better than last year's squad. A debate that not many fans want to have and a belief not many fans want to admit. But the stats are striking and it's clear there are some deep rooted issues with this team and I'm not so sure they'll easily be worked out.
Even though, in the past, Wyoming has given Utah problems -- especially in Laramie -- this is not a very good Cowboys team. One only needs to look at their record for proof of this, as Wyoming entered the game with an 11-16 overall record. Yet even with the lack of talent and their obvious struggles this season, they still managed to sweep Utah. That's inexcusable, regardless of Utah's talent problems. But this seems to be the trend with the Utes, something we saw Wednesday against TCU. These problems are inflated by the fact Utah is a poor road team, but even at home Utah still has not proved they are capable of even being good. Unfortunately, this Utah team is bad and their loss to Wyoming only solidifies this argument.
For Utah, the loss stings because this was a winnable road game -- as was the TCU one. The fact they failed to do so, though, has got to be demoralizing for Coach Boylen and the players because it reinforces the idea they are a weak program and even weaker on the road. That mindset will not do them any favors next year and with only one road game left in the season, it's probably not likely they build any type of confidence in that regard.
So how did Utah lose? Well the fact Wyoming planted themselves at the free throw line the entire night didn't help the Utes. But it wasn't bad officiating that cost them this game, it was once again mental mistakes that unraveled any chance Utah had of winning.
Luke Nevill led the Utes with 22 points on 12-15 shooting and seemed to be really the only bright spot for Utah. And, like in nearly every game this season, Utah failed to get strong production from their point guards. Tyler Kepkay again failed in running this offense and couldn't even manage to score -- going 0-3 from the field. Johnnie Bryant wasn't too bad, scoring 15 on 6-12 shooting, including 3-7 from outside. But obviously it wasn't enough and the Utes lost 72-64.
Wyoming won this game by not playing a particularly solid game, as they didn't have much of an advantage in the statistical categories. They did, however, manage to get to the line a lot and that was the deciding factor Saturday. Wyoming shot 27 free throws, making 26, while Utah only shot 10 and they made only 5. It was a tough night all around for the Utes, but that seems to be par the course.
So now Utah gets ready for the winless Rams. It should be an easy win, but with this Utah team, you never know.