Stanford, Calif. • Minutes before Utah took the floor at Maples Pavilion on Saturday morning, coach Larry Krystkowiak looked around the locker room, surveyed his players and issued the following decree:
“If anyone needs me to punch them in the mouth, let me know. I can do it right now.”
Of course, Krystkowiak wasn’t being literal. But he was attempting to prepare his team for the kind of senior day atmosphere they were about to walk in to.
Two hours later, after a damaging 61-60 loss to the Cardinal, Krystkowiak found himself frustrated.
His players weren’t ready — at least not initially. Stanford played like a wounded animal. It played with desperation. It played with toughness, and the Utes for 20 minutes didn’t come close to matching that intensity.
“They came out and punched us in the mouth,” Krystkowiak said. “They were more physical than us and they played hard. It’s frustrating, but you’re talking about young kids. We were the reactor for a lot of the time.”
Utah made a big run at the end. The Utes had chances to win the game, but the tone was no doubt set in the first half. For the full 40 minutes, Stanford grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, seemingly getting to every one of its missed shots. The Cardinal scored 36 points in the paint and they scored 20 second chance points.
That allowed Stanford to get second and third opportunities on many of its possessions. Giving up chances at such an alarming rate proved almost fatal for the Utes, despite their second half comeback.
“They were just able to get to a lot of loose balls,” Utah center Jeremy Olsen said. “We didn’t box out a lot of the time and that hurt us. We should’ve been better in that department, but we weren’t.”
Point guard Delon Wright led the Utes with eight rebounds, but none of his teammates were able to grab more than five. Leading rebounder Jordan Loveridge had just two in 24 minutes, while Stanford won the overall battle 28-23.