Utah improved to 4-2 in conference play (10-8) overall after beating Stanford, 70-66. The victory was the first road win for the Utes in Stanford since 1971, and moved the team into 4th place in the PAC-12 standings. Despite this, the win over the Cardinal was a largely disappoint effort, showcasing many of this young team’s deficiencies.
The Utes managed just 47.2% of their attempted field goals against Stanford, though they were more impressive from deep, shooting 64.3% from three-point range. Sedrick Barefield’s 4-5 night from three point land was a difference maker, scoring most of his 18 points from behind the arch. Donnie Tillman’s 11 points off the bench provided a spark, but overall, Utah struggled to break through Stanford’s stout defense, suffering from 10 blocked shots and getting out-rebounded 29-36. It was apparent early on that Stanford’s plan to triple cover the Utes had the team stumped, and getting the ball to an open man was a problem throughout the night.
For as sloppy as Utah’s offense looked, Stanford wasn’t much better. The Utes held the home team to just 43.1% and an atrocious 23.5% from deep, but even with terrible shooting from the Cardinal, Stanford was very much alive with only 39 seconds left, down 65-64 before a pair of Barefield free throws put the Utes up by three with 22 seconds remaining. Stanford’s aggressive approach on defense failed to rub off on the Utes, who failed to record a single blocked shot on the night.
It’s hard to fault Krystkowiak and co. too much considering the overall youth of this team. Without an imposing big man, a large part of Larry’s offensive scheme is absent, leaving him to work with the talent available, and tonight was a fine example of working with what he has. Relegating Tillman and Gach to the bench to provide a spark when needed has proven effective, and putting the game on Barefield’s back to close things out has become a common sight this season.
It was an ugly win, but a win nonetheless. With a Cal team that has yet to record a conference win this season up next, the Utes have one more chance to cement their top four seeding before the schedule ramps up with the Oregon schools visiting the Huntsman Center next week.