Tempe, Ariz. • Larry Krystkowiak isn’t frustrated. Disappointed, maybe, but nor frustrated.
His Utah Utes were a just couple of plays short of pulling off a huge road win over Arizona State on Wednesday night in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.
Defensively, the Utah coach had no room for complaints. His team held a high-scoring ASU outfit to 55 points in 45 minutes. They smothered Jahii Carson for the most part, holding the normally spectacular point guard to 5-of-18 shooting. They rebounded the ball, and never let the tempo get out of hand.
“We did everything we wanted to do for the most part,” Krystkowiak said.
Basketball, unfortunately, is a two-way sport. Even the best defensive programs have to figure out a way to score. And that, at least this far into the this season, has been Utah’s bugaboo.
Wednesday night was no different. The Utes suffered through multiple scoring droughts against ASU. A 10-minute stretch in the first half yielded a 14-2 Sun Devil run. After the Utes clawed their way to a slight lead in the second half, they had several chances to score, but couldn’t do it.
And finally there was the final possession, where three chances to put the ball in the basket wasn’t enough.
“It was difficult to take,” senior center Jason Washburn said. “We knew that we had to execute offensively, but we didn’t in some key stretches.”
At times, Utah looked nothing short of disjointed with the ball. There were turnovers. There were points where the shot clock was in danger of expiring, and the Utes couldn’t get anything going, resulting in an ugly last-ditch shot attempt.
But there were other instances where the offense worked fine. At that point, Utah simply missed wide-open looks at the basket. With Krystkowiak slowing down the tempo, those misses have to be concerning. If the Utes are going to shorten games and possessions in the Pac-12, they know that making open shots is an absolute must. If they had done that against Arizona State, they may have won the game going away.
“It comes down to taking advantage of our opportunities,” Krystkowiak said. “That’s something we have to work on in the future.”
As it stands, Utah’s shooting numbers from key players were alarming. Jarred DuBois shot 4-of-13 from the field against the Sun Devils. Glen Dean went 2-of-7. Jordan Loveridge suffered through 3-of-11 shooting, while Aaron Dotson was invisible for the majority of his 24 minutes.
Only Washburn, 8-of-15, shot over 50 percent among the starters. In all, the Utes shot 34.5 percent from the field. That number dipped to 25 percent in overtime. On the road against a 12-2 ASU team, those kinds of statistics won’t win many games.
The Utes were really good defensively in their conference opener. Now, the offense needs to catch up.
— Tony Jones