Utes’ season ends after near comeback against Colorado
Utes’ comeback attempt falls short as the team ends its worst year ever.
Published: March 9, 2012 12:49AM
Updated: March 8, 2012 08:42PM
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Utah's Alex Mortensen, left, looks to pass as he is defended by Colorado's Askia Booker during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Pac-12 conference championship in Los Angeles, Wednesday, March 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Los Angeles • Larry Krystkowiak made it through 1,224 minutes, 16 seconds of basketball as the head coach of the University of Utah men’s basketball team without receiving a technical foul. The notoriously intense and often furious coach had swallowed his harshest criticisms of officials.

He didn’t quite lose it, but he came close to winning it. A 53-41 loss ended the worst season in Utah history, one that almost had a crowning moment in front of the blank faces of thousands of empty seats at the Staples Center in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament.

With 15:44 remaining in Utah’s final game of the season, and it slipping away from the Utes, who trailed by six, Dijon Farr drove the lane where he softly collided into a pillow of defenders.

As play moved away from the Utah bench, Krystkowiak followed referee Mike Littlewood with his eyes, head and mouth.

“Call the foul,” Krystkowiak yelled.

Littlewood heard him. Everyone in the mostly empty Staples Center heard him. But Krystkowiak wanted to be sure Littlewood, who is also the head baseball coach at Dixie State, heard him.

This time he bellowed.

“Call THE FOUL.”

Littlewood stopped play and turned to Krystkowiak, and signaled a technical foul.

There was a timeout, two technical free throws, and a layup by Andre Roberson.

Colorado’s lead was 10.

And that was all the motivation the Utes needed.

Chris Hines made a 3-pointer on the next possession.

Colorado’s Carlon Brown, a former Ute, missed.

Washburn dunked over two Buffaloes. The lead was six.

Then Hines air-balled a 3-pointer.

“What is he dribbling out to half court for?” Krystkowiak yelled, after Hines had backed away from the defenders glued to him.

But Utah’s defense didn’t stall. It was the Utes’ best defense of the season, Krystkowiak would say.

Colorado went 11:17 in the first half without a field goal.

As of the 7:53 mark of the second half, it had been 7:29 since Roberson’s layup.

But while that clock was ticking upward, the one Utah needed ticked down.

Washburn collected his fourth block of the game and Anthony Odunsi downcourt, drawing a foul. He made both free throws.

Finally, Colorado broke its drought, on a putback layup by Brown. It had been 9:10.

Utah nearly did tie it once. After a pair of free throws by Washburn, it was one basket away from fully recovering from that 10-point deficit spurred by Krystkowiak’s technical.

It unraveled again.

Washburn missed a baby hook shot. Colorado made free throws. Martin’s 3-pointer from the corner was on line, but off point.

This is where Hines would later say he thought the Utes would seize control.

“I wasn’t ready for it to end,” Washburn said. “We just didn’t give up.”

The Buffaloes’ lead was four. Then six.

Eight.

Then, once, more it was 10.

On their next trip down the floor, the Utes lost possession on a jump ball and Krystkowiak muttered under his breath and shook his head. There was no use yelling.

Two minutes remained, but the game was over.

After 1,224 minutes, 16 seconds, then 15:44 more, it had ended.

boram@sltrib.com

Highlights

R Utah trims a 10-point lead to two with 6:12 remaining in the second half but can’t overcome the deficit.

• Jason Washburn leads the Utes with 11 points, six rebounds and five blocks.

Pac-12 men’s tournament

At Staples Center, Los Angles. Note • All times MST

First round, Wednesday

Game 1 • No. 9 Oregon State 69, No. 8 Washington State 64

Game 2 • No. 5 UCLA 55, No. 12 USC 40

Game 3 • No. 7 Stanford 85, No. 10 Arizona State 65

Game 4 • No. 6 Colorado 53, No. 11 Utah 41

Quarterfinals, Thursday

Game 5 • No. 1 Washington vs. No. 9 Oregon State, 1:10 p.m.

Game 6 • No. 4 Arizona vs. No. 5 UCLA, 3:40 p.m.

Game 7 • No. 2 California vs. No. 7 Stanford, 7:10 p.m.

Game 8 • No. 3 Oregon vs. Colorado, 9:40 p.m.

Semifinals, Friday

• Game 5 and Game 6 winners, 7:10 p.m.

• Game 7 and Game 8 winners, 9:40 p.m.

Championship, Saturday • Semifinal winners, 4:10 p.m.