Utah basketball blows huge lead in loss to Cal State Northridge
By Steve Luhm
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Dec 21 2012 11:24PM
A TV-mandated late show turned into an X-rated nightmare for the University of Utah on Friday night at the Huntsman Center.
Stephan Hicks and Landon Drew scored 19 points each as Cal State Northridge rallied from a 21-point halftime deficit and defeated the Utes, 76-71.
Utah missed 21 of its 27 shots in the second half, when the Utes also committed nine turnovers.
The Matadors converted 11 of their final 14 possessions and improved to 9-3 this season.
Utah dropped to 7-4 overall, with its four defeats coming by a total of 19 points.
"It’s really disheartening — not the way you want to head out on the Christmas break," said coach Larry Krystkowiak.
Freshman Jordan Loveridge finished with 24 points, including 16 in the first half. But the Matadors used an almost unbelievable 22-2 run during a nine-minute stretch to wipe out a 57-41 deficit and take a 63-59 lead.
In that span, Utah converted one of its 19 possessions into points and did not score from the field.
"When we needed to score the most and stop the bleeding," Kyrstkowiak said, "we had two or three straight possessions where we just couldn’t buy one around the rim. At the end of the day, you have to get those in the hoop."
Turnovers, however, were the biggest culprit.
"We continued to try to make passes that weren’t there," Krystkowiak said. "... When we turn it over, it just kind of sucked the life out of our team."
Searching for their fourth win in five games, the Utes traded baskets with Northridge in the opening minutes before Aaron Dotson hit two free throws to snap a 7-7 tie.
Backup center Jason Washburn followed with eight points in a span of 2:07. He sparked an 11-2 run by the Utes, who built a 20-9 lead with 13:40 remaining.
Despite converting only one of its next nine possessions, Utah maintained a 23-16 advantage over the smaller Matadors.
The Utes were nursing a 31-22 lead when Loveridge took over. Showing his versatility, he scored three times from close range, hit a 17-footer and buried a 3-point shot.
Loveridge scored 11 straight points for the Utes, who closed the half on a 25-11 run while building their 21-point cushion.
But the Matadors didn’t go away. Hicks’ 3-pointer with 15:25 left in the game closed the gap to 54-38.
After Josh Greene converted a three-point play on Northridge’s next possession, Utah’s lead was down to 54-41.
Washburn temporarily stopped the Matadors’ momentum with a three-point play, but Drew’s dunk capped a 9-0 run that made it 57-50 with 10:30 remaining. Again, Utah seemed back on track when Loveridge made two free throws. But Northridge quickly followed with 12 straight points and took its first lead with 5:12 to play when Green nailed a long-distance 3-pointer.
Meanwhile, the Utes missed 13 straight shots in one stretch.
"It’s human nature," Krystkowiak said. "When you are playing a little bit tight and trying to protect something ... the rim is not so big."
Krystkowiak also credited Northridge, which scored more points on Utah than any opponent this season.