The Utes played their first true road game at Wichita State Saturday afternoon, and on the back of 19 turnovers, they fell by the score of 67-50. The Utes were led by Jakob Poeltl with 11 points and 9 rebounds, while Brandon Taylor and Jordan Loveridge each had 9 points. Loveridge's 9 points all came from the free throw line.
The Shockers were paced by Zach Brown's 14 points, as well as 13 from Markis McDuffie and 10 from Fred VanVleet. Wichita State, after starting the season 4-4, has started to get healthy and played probably their best game of the season, and won their 34th consecutive game at home.
The Utes really dug their hole in the first half, as they had 11 of their turnovers to open the game, and fell behind by a halftime score of 33-20. The aggressive defense of WSU's guards really inhibited Utah to get the ball into Jakob Poeltl when he was in the post. Taylor really struggled with the ball, as he has throughout this season, with 6 turnovers of his own (4 of which came in the 1st half).
Utah came out playing much better to open the 2nd half, as they actually shaved the lead down to 4, after a string of solid defensive possessions, and an aggressive mind set to get into the paint. Wichita State promptly went on a run after Utah cut it to 4, including some very questionable calls by the officials, that put Utah in a hole they could never dig out of.
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak took exception with some of the officiating, as he picked up a technical foul after what appeared to be a goal tend against the Shockers was not called on a Kyle Kuzma layup.
The game really exposed the Utah guard line, and their inability, to this point anyway, to get the Utah offense established in the half court, and to take care of the ball when being pressured. The guards have struggled all year, while the Utah front court has carried the Utes all season. Due to the turnovers, WSU actually attempted 25 more shots than the Utes (59-34).
Where Utah normally is dominate, because of 7-footer Poeltl and aggressive Kuzma, in the paint on offense, they only mustered 12 points in the paint, and gave up 28. That is just another way to illustrate the struggles of the guards to get the ball into the paint, either by penetration or by feeding the big guys down low.
Utah's struggles to defend the 3 point line continued, as they gave up 10 made threes, and WSU missed some other very good looks. Jordan Loveridge and Coach K both said after the last game that the 3 point defense has been a bit of a bugaboo, and that was affirmed Saturday afternoon.
One notable absence from the lineup Saturday was Kenneth Ogbe, as it was reported he re-aggravated the injury that has kept him sidelined to open this season. Ogbe has played very well since his return to the lineup, and his defense was missed.
Utah returns home on Wednesday to take on Savannah State, before they travel back to New York City to take on Duke.
Wichita State 28-12 pts in the paint, 25-0 pts off turnovers, 10-2 2nd chance pts. #Utes— Bill Riley (@espn700bill) December 12, 2015