Utah basketball: Utes' rally falls short against Washington
Suddenly, the Utah men's basketball team is worth watching again.
At least at home. At least against Washington schools.
Forty-point losses and comical blowouts felt a year away Saturday and, indeed, they all occurred in 2011 when the newly resilient and respectable Utes scraped within two points in the final 10 seconds before falling to Washington 57-53.
"I'm satisfied that we didn't really give up and we showed heart the whole game," Cedric Martin said.
Utah (4-11, 1-2) split its opening homestand as a member of the Pac-12 after knocking off Washington State on Thursday in overtime.
The Utes were in a position to pull of the most improbable of upsets in a season for which any win will be improbable. Behind 18 points from point guard Josh "Jiggy" Watkins, the Utes cut a 10-point second-half deficit to 43-42 with 9:05 remaining.
Washington's lead, however, was like a Slinky. Every time Utah got close, the Huskies loaded up and regained the momentum to pull away.
At least, that was how it seemed to the fans who took a Terrence Ross 3-pointer with 2:56 remaining and two seconds of the shot clock as a sign to leave their seats and begin the solemn march to the exits.
"Their guys just hit tough shots at the end of shot clocks," Watkins said.
The 3 gave the Huskies a six-point lead, and an ensuing basket by Washington's Abdul Gaddy furthered the draining of the once-raucous crowd of an announced 8,887 fans.
They missed, perhaps, the most exciting sequence of Utah's season.
Washington (9-6, 2-2) missed three free throws in the final minute all on the front end of one-and-ones giving the Utes bonus opportunities to fight back. A 3-pointer by Martin with 12 seconds remaining cut the lead to 55-53. The Utes made just 4 of 15 3-pointers in the game.
The Utes fouled Ross, who led the Huskies with 14 points, after he had missed Washington's two previous free throws. He calmly sank both and the Utes could not score again in the final eight seconds.
For the Utes and first-year coach Larry Krystkowiak, there is a fine line between the expected and accepted. Krystkowiak lamented early in the season his team's need to be reminded to give maximum effort.
He hopes the Utes are past that. For the first time this season, he said, he did not write "play hard" on the board in the locker room.
"I can always handle it when we play hard," Krystkowiak said. "That's not to say we don't have a lot of things to work on. There's going to be different challenges. I think we all know how it feels when you get shellacked and you're not playing hard."
On the effort side of the ball defense Utah held Washington to its fewest points of the season and the Huskies shot just 32.3 percent from the field in the first half.
The Huskies had not won a road game before Saturday and were coming off an 18-point loss in Boulder on Thursday.
"If we would have played the way we played in our other road games," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said, "meaning offensively rushing shots and taking quick shots, we would have gone down."
Washington 57, Utah 53
R The Utes fight back from a second-half deficit for the second game in a row, but their rally falls short.
• Former Pleasant Grove star C.J. Wilcox starts for the Huskies but finishes with 5 points on 2-of-13 shooting.