Utah basketball: Free throws cost Utes down the stretch
Stanford, Calif. • Josh Watkins shouldered the blame for Utah's 68-65 loss at Stanford Thursday.
"I put this one on me," Watkins said.
But it had nothing to do with his 3-point attempt that missed as time expired. Instead, Watkins was kicking himself for four missed free throws, all with less than 5 minutes remaining in the back-and-forth game.
But Watkins wasn't alone. He was 1 of 5 from the line, while the Utes combined to shoot 1 for 9.
"They're called free throws," guard Chris Hines said, "you need to make those."
The Cardinal were 5 of 17.
The Utes trailed by nine with 47 seconds left when Jason Washburn fouled Stanford's Chasson Randle, who split the free throws. On the next possession, Josh Huestis missed a pair.
"Check the record book," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. He mused that two teams combining to shoot 6 of 26 from the line is about as bad as it gets.
"You have to step up and make free throws, both sides," he said. "For us, the pressure was there as well, obviously."
For the second game in a row, the Utes turned to fouling in the final minute to stop the clock and get the ball back. Stanford shot 3 of 6 in the final minute to give the Utes a shot to tie the game on Watkins' 3 as time expired.
Saturday against Washington, the Huskies missed the front end of one-and-ones three times in the final 1:06. The inefficiency allowed the Utes to cut an eight-point lead to two points with eight seconds remaining before ultimately losing 57-53.
Neither the Utes nor Stanford have been good free-throw shooting teams this season. Utah entered the game shooting 66.6 percent, while Stanford had been 67.7 percent from the line.
Watkins' performance, though, marked the latest in a steady decline on free throws. He shot 84.9 percent through six games this season, but after Thursday that fell to 66.3.