Pullman, Wash. • Another close game. Another close loss.
What can you say, other than this is the mantra that is Utah’s season to this point. On Sunday afternoon at Beasley Coliseum, the Utes let a 12-point lead slip away in a 49-46 defeat at Washington State. Once again, Utah found itself with the last possession and a chance to win. Once again, Larry Krystkowiak’s team came up empty.
Last year, the narrow losses were a source of optimism, a sign that the program was trending in the right direction. This year, they’re a source of frustration. The Utes time and again find themselves climbing the mountain, but slipping at its apex.
Utah drops to 12-4 overall, 1-3 in Pac-12 play. The four defeats are by a total of nine points.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” sophomore point guard Brandon Taylor said. “We were close, but it’s another loss. We’re trying to figure out what the problem is, but we have to just go back home and get ready for the next game.”
It’s been an ugly week on the road for Utah. A 59-57 defeat at Washington on Wednesday night highlighted a sputtering offense that couldn’t find a rhythm and couldn’t make shots. On Sunday — as hard as it was to accomplish — the Utes were worse. Much worse.
They shot 4-for-20 from the field in the second half. They went 2-for-14 from 3-point range. They had 10 turnovers against seven assists. They missed nine free throws. For a team that came into the week as one of the more fundamentally sound and better shooting squads in the nation, the two games represented a massive step back offensively.
“It’s certainly something that we need to figure out,” Krystkowiak said. “I certainly have some work to do as a coach to get our guys pointed in the right direction, and we have to work on some things.”
Sophomore forward Jordan Loveridge scored a game-high 15 points but shot 3-for-11 from the field and scored just four after halftime. Junior guard Delon Wright had 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
Beyond those two, nobody scored more than Jeremy Olsen’s six points. Taylor went 0-for-7 from the field, wrapping up a miserable week for him in which he shot a combined 2-for-18. Dakarai Tucker — Utah’s other shooter — went 2-for-6 and missed all three of his attempts from beyond the arc.
“We have to get into some of our stuff earlier,” Loveridge said. “We have to play better offensively. We’re frustrated, but we have to work it out.”
For as bad as the offense was, the defense kept the Utes in the game. They held Washington State to 15-for-40 shooting from the field and 2-for-7 from 3-point range. The Cougars struggled to find looks from the perimeter and were turned away inside in large measures.
Utah held a 28-19 advantage early in the second half and had chances to extend the lead but couldn’t do it. Given an opening, WSU slowly worked the deficit down and took the lead for good when Dexter Kernich-Drew made a jumper from the top of the key.
Wright’s dunk pulled the Utes within 47-46. A Washington State turnover gave Utah one last chance, but Taylor went to the basket and was called for traveling. Sunday marked the first league win of the season for the Cougars.
“We were at a crossroads where we could’ve put some distance between us and pushed the lead into double digits and we couldn’t get it done,” Krystkowiak said.
on twitter: @tjonessltrib
Washington State 49, Utah 46
R Utah lets a nine-point second-half lead slip away.
• Brandon Taylor turns the ball over with seven seconds left, sealing the defeat.
• Utah falls to 1-3 in the Pac-12.
Washington St. 49, Utah 46
Joveridge 3-11 7-10 15, Olsen 2-5 2-2 6, Taylor 0-7 1-2 1, Tucker 2-6 0-0 4, Wright 4-8 6-11 14, Kovacevic 0-1 0-0 0, Onwas 0-1 2-2 2, Van Dyke 0-1 0-0 0, Lenz 0-0 0-0 0, Ogbe 1-2 0-0 2, Bachynski 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 13-44 18-27 46.
WASHINGTON ST. (8-8)
Shelton 1-7 6-8 8, Railey 0-5 0-0 0, Kernich-Drew 5-6 0-0 11, Woolridge 1-3 0-2 2, Johnson 2-7 10-13 14, Iroegbu 2-3 0-1 5, DiIorio 0-1 1-2 1, Longrus 3-6 0-2 6, Hawkinson 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 15-40 17-28 49.
Halftime—Utah 24-19. 3-Point Goals—Utah 2-14 (Loveridge 2-6, Wright 0-1, Tucker 0-3, Taylor 0-4), Washington St. 2-7 (Kernich-Drew 1-2, Iroegbu 1-2, Johnson 0-1, Woolridge 0-1, DiIorio 0-1). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Utah 32 (Bachynski, Wright 7), Washington St. 34 (Shelton 9). Assists—Utah 7 (Wright 3), Washington St. 6 (Woolridge 3). Total Fouls—Utah 22, Washington St. 21. A—2,375.