Utah basketball: Utes’ road struggles continue
Utah basketball • Team unable to win close games.
Published: February 3, 2014 09:59AM
Updated: February 2, 2014 11:16PM
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Colorado's Xavier Johnson, right, falls into Utah's Dakarai Tucker during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/The Daily Camera, Cliff Grassmick) NO SALES

Boulder, Colo. • People are starting to take notice.

The national college basketball observers are taking to Twitter, speaking of Utah’s woes away from the Huntsman Center. And in analyzing the Utes’ seven losses, you would be hard-pressed to find another team around the country with worse luck.

Utah has been defeated by an average of 3.7 points per game. The Utes are 0-6 in games decided by four points or less. They are 0-2 in overtime, and their losses total 26 points. They are young, and they are taking their lumps, despite being the most competitive team the program has seen in years.

Maybe it’s just a part of the process, growing the program. Maybe Utah is simply a year away.

“I don’t know what you can say about it,” sophomore guard Brandon Taylor said. “We just have to find a way to get better. We have to go back to practice, look at the film and get better for the week.”

The latest loss was Saturday against Colorado, a 79-75 overtime defeat that stung in many ways. In falling short again, the Utes had a 47-35 lead with 14 minutes remaining. They controlled the first half, and fought back to send it to overtime on Taylor’s 3-pointer even when the Buffaloes made an inevitable run.

But in the extra session, Utah never led. The Utes scored 10 points but never really seemed to have many good offensive possessions. As a result, the questions persist, and it’s not just about winning on the road. It’s about winning close games, period.

“When we hit the 3 to send it to overtime, it really felt like we were going to win this game,” freshman forward Ahmad Fields said. “Everyone was hyped, and everyone was excited. For us to not win that game was frustrating. There are a lot of games this year that we’ve lost that we feel like should’ve gone our way.”

There is good news. The Pac-12 is so jumbled that the Utes aren’t out of contention — even at 3-6 in league play. But this is almost desperation time for Larry Krystkowiak’s team. Washington and Washington State come to the Huntsman Center this week. They are almost must-win matchups. Only Arizona (21-1, 8-1) has separated itself from the field. Even UCLA lost at Oregon State over the weekend, so everyone beyond the Wildcats has at least three losses in the conference.

So if Utah can find a way to win a few consecutive games, and pull out the close games, it could still put itself in position for a good Pac-12 tournament seed.

But it’s February. The sand in the hourglass is running. The Utes still have time left. But not much.

Washingtonat Utah

P Thursday, 7 p.m.

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