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Utah Falls to Washington State 71-54 - Game Thread

Instant Reaction and Analysis and Final Thoughts

NCAA Basketball: Southern California at Utah Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Game Notes:

Losing is never easy and losing 8 straight games is just brutal. The Utes travel to the state of Washington desperately trying to end an 8 game losing streak. Despite the losses, in the last 4 games the Utes have begun to find their identity and showed some incredible grit despite playing without their star Center Branden Carlson. The Utes played tough against 3 teams currently ranked in the top #25. What has been impressive as of late is that Utah’s bench has been stepping up and providing a big spark. The Utes will need a complete team effort to snap this losing streak. Utah is coming off a 79-67 home loss to USC on Saturday evening after a 20 point performance from Gabe Madsen who single-handedly kept Utah in the game throughout the evening. Prior to the USC loss, Utah took UCLA to the wire last Thursday, narrowly losing 63-58. Lazar Stefanovic has really stepped up as of late and Jaxon Brenchley has been receiving some meaningful minutes off the bench. The Utes will need a strong performance if they are going to beat Washington State in Pullman. These two teams last played in Salt Lake City on January 8 when Washington State beat Utah 77-61 near the beginning of Utah’s current losing streak. The Utes are a very different team and are currently playing with a lot more confidence, so this game will be a true litmus test for the Utah Utes. Utah enters the game with an 8-12 record overall and 1-9 in conference play. Washington State has had their last two games (against Oregon State and Oregon) postponed due to COVID health and safety protocols within the Cougar’s program. Washington State last played on January 15 when they beat Cal at home 65-57. Michael Flowers leads the Cougars with 13.2 points per game. Washington State enters the game with a 10-7 record overall and 3-3 in conference play. The Utes will continue to be without Branden Carlson as he recovers from appendicitis, however, word is that he has been practicing and there is a chance we’ll see him back in action this week. Cheer on the Utes wherever you are and let’s snap this losing streak!

When: Wednesday, January 26 at 8 pm MT

Where: Pullman, WA (Beasley Coliseum)

How to Watch: PAC 12 Network

First Half:

-Big surprise before tip-off as Branden Carlson is warming up and appears as though he will see action tonight. Also interesting to see Gabe Madsen getting into the starting lineup after his 20 point effort against USC.

16:00- Utah is off to an energetic start and leads 6-5. Great pick and roll action early from the Utes leading to easy lay-ins. Utah shooting 75% early which would be fantastic if that can remain high but two ugly turnovers in the first four minutes are certainly not a positive sign.

12:00- Utah really careless with the basketball early as we now have 6 turnovers. Great to see Branden Carlson getting into the game early and it will be great to have his size on both ends of the court. Stefanovic has been great so far as he has buried two 3’s to start the game. We have to protect the basketball to be successful in this game. Game tied at 12-12.

8:00- Washington State taking advantage after Utah missed some good lucks at the basket and leads Utah 16-14. We haven’t turned the ball over in the last 4 minutes which is a huge plus but unfortunately missed some great looks. Stefanovic leads the Utes with 8 points.

4:00- Branden Carlson’s first basket back for Utah and it’s an alley-oop dunk, excellent to see after Washington State attempted a full-court press. Utah and Washington State with a coming together after Ballstaedt commits a flagrant 1 and Noah Williams pushes him after being held and is given a Technical Foul. Washington State in the aftermath begins to seize the momentum as they lead 25-19 with a free throw coming. Important stretch for the Utes, they need to close the gap heading into halftime.

0:00- Really tough stretch to end the half for the Utes as they trail Washington State 33-25 at the half. Turnovers once again hurting the Utes as they have 13 turnovers in the first half. Washington State has increased their defensive pressure the last few minutes leading to a number of turnovers as Utah looked to run on the offensive end. Washington State with 7 turnovers in the half. Lazar Stefanovic leads all scorers with 11 points and Noah Williams leads the Cougars with 10 points. Utah has to protect the basketball and play tougher on defense; the Cougars getting way too many second-chance looks as they extended their lead in the final minutes of the first half. Let’s turn up the pressure in the second half Utah.

Second Half:

15:00- Utah is in danger of letting this one slip away as Washington State leads 41-31. Washington State playing some tough defense and Utah just couldn’t convert multiple times to cut into the Cougars lead before Washington State hit some big shots to lead by 13 before Both Gach managed to hit a 3 before the timeout. Utah has to take it one possession at a time and slowly get back into this game.

13:00- This is really getting out of hand quickly as Washington State goes on an 18-3 run in the last 6 minutes to take a 51-31 lead over Utah. This losing streak has been marked by turnovers and scoring droughts and unfortunately, this game has had both for Utah. Washington State is making seemingly every shot and Utah can’t buy a basket. The Utes need to stop the bleeding and make a run of their own.

12:00- Unfortunately things haven’t gotten better as Utah now trails Washington State 55-31. Branden Carlson just fouled on a shot attempt so there’s a chance we can finally end the scoring drought. It’s a long way back for the Utes tonight.

5:00- Utah makes a run and cuts the lead to 15 before Washington State answers and now leads 65-44. Washington State is just playing with far more desire as they seem to get every loose ball and are just outhustling the Utes in every way tonight. Utah just looks out of sorts.

Final Thoughts:

I mentioned in my pre-game notes that this game would be a good litmus test for the Utes after having a few close games against quality opposition. Unfortunately, The Utes did not pass the test in Pullman tonight as Washington State rolled to a 71-54 victory. The game was tight for the first 12 minutes until Washington State increased their defensive pressure and never looked back. Washington State was the far more energetic side throughout the night and was the first to every loose ball. Washington State outrebounded Utah 39-29 and had 18 offensive rebounds throughout the night leading to easy second-chance points. Turnovers once again killed the Utes as they committed 19 turnovers throughout the night. Washington State also had 10 steals on the night. Washington State’s largest lead was 24 until Utah was able to fight back to a more respectable margin but the reality was that Utah was never close in this game. This game was certainly an extremely unfortunate setback for a Utes team that had been looking far more confident as of late. The Utes will need to regroup as they head to Seattle to face Washington on Saturday hoping to end a now 9 game losing streak.

Next Up: Utah @ Washington on Saturday, January 29 at 3 pm MT on PAC 12 Network