Stanford, Calif. • This is not the point of the college basketball season where things are going to be coming easy, especially if you’re on the road, against a team hanging on to NCAA Tournament hopes.
Stanford entered Wednesday night’s game against the University of Utah on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble, but couldn’t afford a loss to the Utes for the sake of their resume. The Utes have yet to win a Pac-12 game on the road. A win Wednesday night would have taken care of that, plus bolstered their still-beating NIT hopes.
With all of that acting as the backdrop, the Cardinal came out ready to play. Utah did not. That has been a season-long problem on the road in the Pac-12, and it was a problem again Wednesday. Even still, the Utes challenged late into the second half, but a double-digit first-half hole proved too much as the Cardinal remained on the right side of the bubble with a 70-62 victory.
The loss puts Utah (15-13, 6-10 Pac-12) at 0-8 in Pac-12 road games with one to play, Saturday at Cal (4 p.m. Pac-12 Networks). No Pac-12 team has gone winless on the road in conference play since 2017, when Oregon State and Washington both finished 0-9.
The Utes, whose margin of defeat in those seven losses before Wednesday was 18.7 points per game, are guaranteed their first losing Pac-12 record since 2013 when they finished 5-13 in Larry Krystkowiak’s second season.
“It’s a tale of two halves,” Krystkowiak said. “There’s a lot of frustration with the first. Second half, I told our guys that’s what we need to bottle up, and you need to be ready to go in a fight. You don’t feel anybody out, there’s a sense of desperation. We have to find five guys that are ready to start a game and set a tone for us.”
Down as many as 18 in the first half, Utah clawed its way back into a game that appeared to be, like other road games this winter, a lost cause. A driving layup from Both Gach with 3:01 to play pulled the Utes to within three at 63-60. A short time later, after the teams traded misses and turnovers, with the Utes looking for the tie, the ball got swung to the left corner to an open Jaxon Brenchley, but his 3-point attempt went off the front of the rim with 1:42 to play.
Out of a stoppage after Utah corralled the offensive board, Branden Carlson’s clean look from the top of the key was also off. Stanford controlled the rebound and on the ensuing possession, Spencer Jones swung the ball to the left wing where Jaiden Delaire drilled his only triple for a 66-60 lead with 1:07 to go. Utah got no closer.
Carlson (12 points, eight blocks, 16 combined blocks between both Stanford games) and Brenchley (13 points, 5-for-7 shooting) both put together strong showings otherwise.
“We just wanted to knock down those shots," Carlson said. “It was a close game, big-time game, we just have to make those open ones when we have them.”
“It’s just frustrating that we can’t come out like that,” said Timmy Allen, who finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists. “We’d play so much better than what we showed. We just have to come out hard in the beginning like we do at home and that’ll get us over the hump, but we have to stay the course.”
Utah’s night began optimistically when Rylan Jones went through his normal pregame routine, then started for the 27th time in as many games. The freshman point guard had to be helped off the floor Sunday against USC with 3:10 to play after Daniel Utomi landed on his left leg while drawing a charge. Jones was seen postgame on crutches with ice on the leg.
Krystkowiak said postgame that Jones had suffered a “significant shin injury” and that he hasn’t practiced this week. Jones went through his normal warmup routine Wednesday and played with a compression sleeve on the left shin.
STANFORD 70, UTAH 62
• Utah gets within three points after falling an early hole, but can’t come all the way back in falling at Stanford.
• Rylan Jones starts and plays 32 minutes after having to be helped off the floor late in Sunday’s win over USC with a left leg injury.
• Utah is now 0-8 in Pac-12 road games with one more to play, Saturday at Cal. A Pac-12 team has not gone winless on the road since 2017, when Oregon State and Washington both did it.
The fact Jones was healthy enough to go was of little consequence early. Stanford’s defensive intensity was evident from the outset, and Utah didn’t have much of an answer. Furthermore, while Cardinal star junior wing Oscar da Silva was contained for much of the first meeting, a 64-56 Utes overtime win on Feb. 6, he got it going early on Wednesday.
By the first media timeout, Utah trailed, 10-2, a deficit that reached as many as 18 points with 4:18 left before halftime. The Utes had nine turnovers in the first 8:10 of the game, finishing with 17 turnovers for the night. Stanford scored 23 points off those 17 turnovers.
For as poorly as Utah played early, it came out of the halftime locker room looking like a different team. The Utes hit six of their first seven second-half shots as Allen’s layup pulled them to within six at 40-34 ahead of the under-16 media timeout. In the middle of that, Carlson was working on another career night vs. Stanford after registering 15 points, 10 rebounds and eight blocks in the first meeting.
With momentum shifting, Stanford freshman guard Tyrell Terry hit three consecutive jumpers with Jones guarding him. The third, a 3-pointer from straightaway, gave the Cardinal (19-9, 8-7) a 53-40 lead with 11:56 to play. Terry finished with 27 points, highlighted by 7-for-11 shooting from deep.