Tempe, Ariz. • There’s no other way to say it. Utah’s road woes continue.
Maybe one day — if the Utes can finally start winning games against good teams away from the Huntsman Center — Larry Krystkowiak can sit back and chuckle about the different ways his team is finding ways to lose on the road.
But for now, it’s just agonizing defeat after agonizing defeat for Utah. Thursday night represents the latest chapter, as Arizona State erased a nine-point deficit, rallying for a 79-75 win at Wells Fargo Arena.
"We’ve got to sit back and find a way to close these things out," Krystkowiak said. "Right now, this one hurts pretty bad."
Standing in the tunnel, with his players filing out to the team bus, Krystkowiak looked frustrated. His voice was gravelly — almost gone. His tone was quiet, sullen. The night ended with he and ASU coach Herb Sendek having a long conversation in the handshake line that didn’t exactly look like the two were making dinner reservations.
He and his team had clearly put forth great effort in beating ASU, battling a superstar in Jahii Carson, tough whistles from the officials and a hostile road environment. Yet — despite playing what was by far their best offensive game away from Salt Lake City — the Utes came up short.
Why? Defense and turnovers. Utah, when it counted, couldn’t keep Carson out of the lane and away from the basket.
Arizona State’s sophomore guard scored a game-high 23 points. The Utes couldn’t take care of the ball down the stretch, losing key possessions. And ASU’s role players came up big — Jonathan Gilling’s 3-pointer made it 73-67 with two minutes remaining, all but ending Utah’s hopes.
"We just didn’t come up with enough stops when it counted," Utes forward Jordan Loveridge said. "We needed to be better defensively and it kind of got away from us."
Utah falls to 14-5 on the season. More importantly, the Utes are 3-4 in the Pac-12. They had a chance to win their 1,700th game as a program. It was an opportunity to climb above the .500 mark in the Pac-12 for the first time as a program.
Instead, Thursday night ended with an 0-4 record on the road, with the inability to win on the road becoming more pronounced by the game. Arizona is next for the Utes — yes, No. 1 Arizona — all of which means it won’t get any easier.
"We had some breakdowns and there were some spots where I thought things got away from us a little bit," Krystkowiak said. "It’s something we’ll look at on film and see where and how we can get better."
For once, the offense traveled with Utah. Loveridge scored 22 points on an array of jumpers and moves in the paint. Delon Wright — despite being uncharacteristically sloppy in spots — scored 21 points, with 14 of those coming in the second half.
But no other Ute scored in double figures. Making things worse, Arizona State saw five players score at least 10 points. Ultimately, Utah couldn’t overcome that kind of balance.
"There’s nothing left to do but get better for the next game," sophomore guard Brandon Taylor said. "That’s what we have to do."
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