It was a tale of two halves in Seattle, where the Runnin’ Utes lost their second straight game to the Huskies, 45-62. The loss plunges Utah to fourth in the conference standings, a game behind Oregon State and Arizona State, and only a half game ahead of fifth place USC. Utah now turns their focus to the lowly Washington State Cougars, but before then, we’ll grade out their most recent performance.
Utah took the court sans Timmy Allen, who was sidelined with a back injury, which clearly hampered the Utes scoring; though early on, his presence was hardly missed. Utah looked good from the opening tip, going on a 5-0 run to start the game and eventually opened up a 17-7 lead at the 13:00 minute mark, thanks in part to five three-pointers from Sedrick Barefield. However, things started to slowly fall apart shortly after, as the Utes went scoreless for over three minutes, allowing the Huskies to slowly crawl their way back out the deficit created by Utah’s offense. With 2:20 left in the first half, Utah’s offense had turned stagnant as Washington took their first lead, 25-26, and never looked back. As the second half progressed, Utah failed to hit a single field goal until the 8:50 mark, scoring only a pair of free throws from Parker Van Dyke before a three pointer from Both Gach gave the Utes a pulse. In the end, Utah would score just five field goals in the second half, failing to find any offense against the dominant Huskies. Underscoring the poor effort, the Utah committed 18 total turnovers in the loss, a problem that has plagued this young team all season.
Jayce Johnson and Riley Battin each recorded six defensive rebounds in the effort, with Donnie Tillman contributing with four of his own, but outside of that, very little can be said for Utah’s defense. As a team, the Utes failed to record a single block, and overall looked sluggish and lost in transition, giving up easy buckets off their numerous turnovers.
Statistics aside, there’s a reason Washington sits firmly atop the PAC-12 this season. The conference simply isn’t very good, and the gap between the Huskies and literally everyone else is too great to measure. With that said, Utah was very much in this game at the end of the first half, and within minutes of the second, Utah looked dead in the water, and Larry Krystowiak and company did very little to remedy the situation. Granted, the loss of Allen likely played a role in the anemic play, but failure to spark anything in the second half is a major indictment against the coaching staff.
The Utes played one of their worst games of the season, and while the prospect of playing the 11th place Washington State Cougars seems like a good chance to break up their current losing streak, Wazzu is a miraculous 3-1 in their last four games, with their only loss in that time coming against Washington...a 72-70 battle on their home court last week. If the Utes fail to produce in Pullman, it could spell disaster for Krystowiak’s team, likely eliminating them from securing a first round bye in the upcoming conference tournament.