This may have been Utah’s worst self-inflicted loss of the season. It certainly goes down as one of the toughest, maybe even more difficult than the overtime defeat to Oregon.
In suffering a 67-63 loss to No. 4 Arizona, one that required an extra session, the Utes went 13-22 from the free-throw line. Down two — armed with three foul shots — and the chance to take a lead over the Wildcats, Brandon Taylor missed all three.
R Utah makes just 13 of 22 from the free-throw line.
» Brandon Taylor misses four foul shots in overtime.
» Utah falls to 17-9 on the season, 6-8 in the Pac-12
Inside » Jordan Loveridge had a chance to turn his subpar night around, but he missed it. > C3
Most damaging of all, Jordan Loveridge missed a free throw that may well have given Utah the win in regulation. As a result — before 14,266 at the Huntsman Center — the Utes suffered their second home defeat of the season.
"It was a classic game," Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "One of the things I was most proud of is that we were able to come back. We built a big deficit against a really good team and we rallied. We never gave up when we easily could’ve. Our young kids gave us a good lift. We got aggressive and got to the free-throw line."
Utah falls to 17-9 on the season, 6-8 in the Pac-12. Larry Krystkowiak’s team misses a golden chance to add a season-changing quality win to its fledgling NCAA Tournament resume. The Utes also missed a chance to defeat Arizona for the first time since 1998.
And it all came down to free throws and turnovers. The most hurtful fact about Taylor — who missed four freebies in the overtime — is that he’s Utah’s best from the line. The three misses took the air out of the Utes and the Huntsman Center at the same time.
Had Utah been able to win the game, it may have gone down as one of the best moments for the program in recent memory. Arizona for large stretches dominated. The Wildcats led by 46-34 with 12 minutes remaining, and the Utes seemed left for dead.
But as fast as Arizona — the leader of the Pac-12 — built its monster advantage, Utah started to chip away. Faced with foul trouble and overall ineffective play from his best guys, Krystkowiak liberally substituted, trying anything to find an answer and something that worked.
That finally came about when Ahmad Fields entered the game. His energy — along with Dallin Bachynski’s — turned things around. Suddenly, Utah was able to get defensive stops. Suddenly, the Utes got to the basket and good things began to happen. Fields, a freshman from Washington D.C., scored just four points. But in a large way, he had a huge hand in Utah rallying.
The same can’t be said about Utah’s main players, though. Loveridge — a sophomore from West Jordan — went 1-12 from the field and scored just seven points in 40 minutes. Delon Wright scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds, but turned the ball over six times and had just two assists. Statisically, Wednesday night may have been his most ineffective game of the season.
Taylor led Utah with 13 points. But Arizona had much more balance. Nick Johnson and Gabe York scored 15 points each. Freshman forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored 13 points and T.J. McConnell had 11 points, six assists and didn’t turn the ball over.
The Wildcats move to 23-2 on the season, 10-2 in the conference. Utah will face Arizona State on Sunday night.
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