Boise • As his team lazily shot free-throws Tuesday morning, Larry Krystkowiak ended Utah’s shootaround with a simple statement that would prove prophetic in a 69-67 loss to Boise State that evening.
“We have to make our foul shots,” Krystkowiak said. “That’s what wins and loses games.”
The stat sheet provided all the proof Krystkowiak would need in the minutes following a defeat the Utes arguably could’ve avoided to the Broncos. Utah shot 8 of 15 from the charity stripe and missed four times in the last five minutes.
The Utes lost for the first time this season, but they learned plenty of lessons in the process. They had opportunities to beat a top-25 caliber team, the only NCAA Tournament team from last season that returned all five starters. They found out they could respond — and thrive in some instances — under difficult circumstances.
On the negative side, however, they didn’t execute in the final minutes offensively, and that led to the defeat. And they didn’t play well on the defensive end in large stretches. With Fresno State coming up Saturday, BYU looming next week and a difficult Pac-12 schedule ahead, these were lessons that needed to be taught.
“We didn’t do the little things that we needed,” sophomore forward Jordan Loveridge said. “We had our chances and we didn’t take advantage of them. We didn’t make out free throws. We didn’t get good looks offensively down the stretch. These are all things that we just need to work and learn from.”
In the wake of Princeton Onwas being ejected because of a flagrant elbow, freshman guard Kenneth Ogbe played the best game of his short career. He scored all nine of his points in the second half and provided an offensive lift when it was crucial.
Ogbe hasn’t been a regular part of Krystkowiak’s rotation, but Utah coaches have been raving about his offensive talent in practice. Krystkowiak said Ogbe will get more minutes in the future, especially as he further integrates himself in the system.
“We have some freshmen who are basketball players,” Krystkowiak said. “Kenneth was huge and he made big shots. I like his length, and the more comfortable he is in his role, the more we will continue to integrate him into the lineup.”