The Runnin’ Utes enter the PAC 12 Tournament Wednesday night as the #11 seed and must win to extend their season. A loss at any point during the tournament will mark the end of the Runnin’ Utes season. It has certainly been an up and down season for the Runnin’ Utes which has largely featured some brutal losses, inconsistency, scoring droughts, losing streaks, and turnovers just to name a few. The bright spot for this team has been their never-say-die attitude as in every game this season the Utes have fought hard till the final buzzer. In a number of games this season, the games have come to the final possession or within a few points of the outcome being very different. If the Utes are going to win on Wednesday night they will need to protect the basketball and find a lot of consistency on offense. The Utes appeared stale and out of ideas on Saturday night when they lost 84-71 at home to Colorado. Utah never pushed the tempo or urgency until the final 6 minutes of the game and at that point the game was just about over. The Utes have been at their best when they live up to the Runnin’ Utes name and play some tenacious defense, look to transition quickly on offense in addition to quick ball movement to find easy baskets. Utah enters this game with an 11-19 record overall and 4-16 in conference play. Washington enters with a 16-14 record overall and 11-9 in conference play. Washington has definitely outperformed expectations this year as they were picked to finish #11th in the PAC 12 pre-season rankings. Terrell Brown leads the Huskies with 21.7 points per game while Branden Carlson leads the Utes with 13.6 points per game. The Utes lost to the Huskies in both meetings this year. First, on January 6 when they lost at home 74-68 after leading by as many as 15, and then again in Seattle on January 29 when they lost in double overtime 77-73 after having a great opportunity to win the game in regulation. The Huskies enter this game on a two-game win streak against Oregon and Oregon State to end their regular season. Utah enters on a 3 game losing streak with losses to Arizona, Arizona State, and Colorado. It’s win or go home as the Utes take on the Huskies in Vegas, let’s keep our season going Utah!
When: Wednesday, March 9 at 9:30 pm MT
Where: T-Mobile Arena (Las Vegas, NV)
How to Watch: PAC 12 Network
13:00- Fluid start to the game and the Utes are beginning to find some holes in the Washington zone as Utah leads 11-9 at the first official timeout. The game began poorly as the Utes turned the ball over on their opening possession leading to a steal and dunk for the Huskies. The Huskies led by 4 before Madsen hit a 3 and the game went back and forth before Utah took the lead at the break on a quick transition from the Utes leading to an open dunk for Branden Carlson. When the Utes have transitioned on a Washington miss the middle of the lane has been open for Carlson but too often we’re forcing deep 3 point shots instead of being a little more patient and attacking the zone. Patience and ball movement is going to be critical for Utah offensively.
12:00- Good defense from the Utes and a great follow-up from Lahat Thioune on a missed shot from Jaxon Brenchley and the Utes lead 13-10. The Utes are leading in rebounds 11-7 early and that will be critical to keep an eye on throughout the game.
7:00- Both teams free-flowing on offense and trading baskets for a stretch until Washington started drawing some and 1’s in addition to getting another steal leading to a quick lay-in and jumped out to a 5 point lead until the Utes answered with a basket and now will have an opportunity to cut into the lead even more at the free-throw line. Washington leads 24-21. Interesting to note that Washington now leads in rebounds 14-13, clear that crashing the boards for the Huskies led to some easy second-chance opportunities on offense.
3:00- Poor couple of minutes from the Runnin’ Utes after taking a short-lived 28-27 lead Both Gach turns the ball over on 2 straight possessions leading to another easy Huskies basket. Unfortunately, in the last couple of games for the Runnin’ Utes, it seems someone on the opposing team has a career game, and right now Cole Bajema is the one to keep an eye on as he has 11 points and 3 3’s. The Huskies are 4-8 from 3 point range. The Utes have to do a better job handling the Washington press. An important couple of minutes for the Utes as Washington leads 34-30.
0:00- Washington leads 40-37 at halftime. Lots of offense in the first half from both teams as the Utes are shooting 50% from the field while Washington is shooting 42.9%, for 3’s the Utes are shooting 33.3% while the Huskies are shooting 40%. Turnovers have really hurt the Utes in the first half as the Utes have committed 6 turnovers compared to only 1 for the Huskies. The turnovers have on multiple occasions led to easy fast-break baskets for Washington. Rebounds are all even at 18 for both teams. Marco Anthony and Cole Bajema lead all scorers with 11 points each. Marco Anthony has been automatic on that turnaround mid-range jumper and hopefully it continues in the second half. Terrell Brown Jr. has 10 points so it will be important for the Utes to keep him in check. The Utes really should have led after the first half but turnovers were absolutely the difference in Utah trailing at halftime. It’s do or die in the second half as the Utes must win to extend their season; should be a great second half, GO UTES!
16:00- The Utes briefly tied the game before Washington responded with a 3 pointer to give the Huskies a 47-44. Really even game across the board so far as both teams showing a lot of tenacity on defense and crashing the boards hard. Rebounds are even at 21 and each team is 6-7 from the free-throw line. The Utes improved defense has already led to 2 turnovers in the second half (more than Washington had in the entire first half). The only concern right now is Rollie Worster hobbled off with a knee injury so it’s unclear whether he’ll return.
12:00- A poor couple of minutes from the Utes involving some poor turnovers, shot selection, and ending in another offensive foul which will give the ball back to the Huskies after the timeout. The Huskies extend their lead 54-48. The Utes now have 10 turnovers on the night which has directly led to points for the Huskies. The Utes have to take care of the basketball and limit Terrell Brown Jr. (18 points) if they are going to make a run to get back into the game.
10:00- 10 run in the last 3 minutes for the Huskies and they now lead Utah 61-48. It’s a long way back for Utah but they still have time. Once again turnovers killing the Utes.
6:00- The Utes were down by as many as 15 but are trying to make a run and have cut the lead to 66-55 with Brenchley going to the line after getting the and 1 attempt. The Utes now have 14 turnovers in the game and Washington has strategically gone to a smaller lineup in an effort to continue to increase their defensive intensity and force more turnovers. The Utes must protect the ball and start hitting some shots to get back into this game.
4:00- Every single time the Utes seem to have some small spark of life the Huskies have found an answer and they lead 73-61 with a free throw attempt coming after the and 1. The Utes have played some tough defense but the Huskies have found a way to hit shots deep into the shot clock to keep the Utes at bay.
2:30- The Utes get a defensive stop and then a basket leading to a timeout from Craig Smith. The Utes trail 74-63 and it would take a monumental effort to come back from this deficit.
After a tight game throughout the first half in which the Utes only trailed by 3, the Runnin’ Utes end their season with a disappointing and turnover-filled second half as the Washington Huskies beat the Runnin’ Utes 82-70. The Runnin’ Utes shot 48.2% from the field while the Huskies shot 47.6%. Terrell Brown Jr. led all scorers with 22 points while Marco Anthony led the Utes with 18 points. The story of the game was turnovers as the Utes committed 15 turnovers with 9 coming in the second half and the Huskies took advantage nearly every time. The Huskies had a number of steals on the night which led to easy baskets. It was a disappointing end to the season for a team that has typically shown a lot of fight; however, the Utes just ran out of steam and bowed out in the first round of the PAC 12 Tournament. Craig Smith will have his work cut out for him as he will begin building the foundation for next year and hitting the recruiting trail. It will be interesting to see what Craig Smtih does to build on this team for next year. A tough end to the season for the Utes but hopefully a sign of brighter days ahead.