Off the heels of a surprising win against Arizona State, the Utes couldn’t keep the magic alive to claim back-to-back conference wins, falling to Arizona in overtime. The 81-84 defeat was heartbreaking for Ute fans, but the team continues to show improvement as PAC-12 play continues.
The Utes led by as many as ten points early in the first half, but it was clear that the turnover issues that plagued the young team earlier in the week have not been corrected. With 18 total turnovers, the offense really shot itself in the foot, allowing the Wildcats to capitalize off bad passes and shot clock violations. Nonetheless, Utah scored an impressive 81 points in the loss with 52.4% from three-point range. Barefield led the Utes with 26 points along with four assists, but fouled out prior to overtime, a mistake that potentially cost Utah the win.
In spite of their up and down season, the Utes have consistently out rebounded their opponents this season, but that wasn’t the case today, Arizona collected 30 rebounds to Utah’s 26; not a terrible margin, but in a three point overtime loss, every detail counts. Giving up 81 points to one of the better teams in the conference is nothing to worry about, however the Utes have allowed an average of 73.9 points this season prior to tonight’s loss, though the OT minutes skew this a little. In the end, allowing Arizona’s Brandon Randolph to shake off his slow start and score six of his 21 points in extra time was the difference maker.
It’s hard to fault the coaching staff when you take one of the better teams in the conference to overtime on the road, however the loss feels avoidable when you consider the Runnin’ Utes surged to an early 10 point lead that slowly dwindled away over the course of a three minute scoreless streak. With 5:23 left in the first half, the Wildcats had tied the game, but with eight minutes of minimal production, Krystkowiak didn’t have any answers to stop the surging Wildcats until it was too late. Again, it seems menial, but every detail counts in these close, overtime losses.
Utah seems to have found its groove at the right time, with the offense clicking and a defense that’s good enough to lead the Utes to a top four seed in the conference. The loss is hard to swallow, but the PAC-12 is proving to be an embarrassingly beatable conference this season, meaning a handful of losses in conference play won’t be as damning as years past.