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Utah basketball: Last-second losses plague Utes

Published January 11, 2014 4:54 pm

The Utes are 0-5 in the past two seasons on games decided on final possession.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Three losses.

Six points.

That's all that stands between Utah and an unbeaten record.

Even more galling are the ways the team has lost. All the losses featured last-second possessions. All have been a result of the Utes' inability to execute on those final chances.

So instead of a 3-0 record in the Pac-12, Utah is 1-2 heading into a matchup with Washington State on Sunday night. Instead of being in the thick of NCAA Tournament consideration, the Utes are seen as a team that's a year away from contention in the Pac-12.

"I'd say two of those were truly last-second possessions," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "I think the Boise State game we had a chance before the last possession, but we turned it over. Bottom line, we've got to do a better job of getting the right shot when games come down to the wire. It's something that we'll work on in practice and something that we'll get better at."

The Utes' three losses were each by two points — 69-67 at Boise State, 70-68 in overtime vs. Oregon and 59-57 at Washington.

The issue even goes back to last season, when the Utes lost to Arizona State and Arizona in consecutive final-possession games. That's five games in two seasons. The problem may be youth, because the Utes have just one senior in their rotation — Renan Lenz — and his minutes have dipped drastically in the last few weeks.

Even with a talented group led by Delon Wright and Jordan Loveridge, there is a lot of inexperience in Utah's lineup.

Other glaring problems come down to execution. Dallin Bachynski turned over the ball against Oregon in a play that was rehashed multiple times that night on SportsCenter. Wright took a double-pick at the top of the key in a 59-57 loss to Washington on Wednesday. The Huskies blitzed Wright, trapped him in the corner and forced him into a hurried jumper that fell short as the buzzer sounded.

"It's something that we'll learn from and get better from," sophomore guard Brandon Taylor said. "We just have to execute better. We aren't worried and we aren't panicking. We just have to be better in those situations."

The Utes believe the floodgates will open once they come up successful in crunch time. But for the moment, Krystkowiak said he will continue to prep his team for future moments and chances to come up big at the end.

Maybe another opportunity will come at Washington State.

tjones@sltrib.com

Utah at Washington State

O At Wallis Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum, Pullman, Wash.

Tipoff • Sunday, 5 p.m.

TV • Pac-12 Network. Radio • 700 AM

Records • Utah 12-3, 1-2; Washington State 7-8, 0-3

Series history • Utah leads 14-3

Last meeting • Washington State 75, Utah 65 (Jan. 16, 2013)

About the Utes • Utah has lost three games by a total of six points this season. ... Jordan Loveridge has scored 10 points in each of his last two games. ... Delon Wright scored a career-high 27 points against Washington on Wednesday. ... This is the third true road game of the season for Utah. ... Utah started the Washington game by missing its first 10 shots from the field.

About the Cougars • Leading scorer DaVonte Lacy is questionable for Sunday's game with a rib injury. ... Washington State lost to No. 15 Colorado 71-70 on Wednesday. ... WSU will be playing its first conference home game Sunday. ... Utah has not won in Beasley Coliseum since 1999.