Utah basketball’s latest loss tough to stomach, and Larry Krystkowiak didn’t hide it

Utes were in control at Washington most of the way, but let it slip in 83-79 loss

Utah forward Timmy Allen (1) tries to get around Washington guard Quade Green (55) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

No matter if it’s a win or a loss, no matter if his team played poorly or not, Larry Krystkowiak is the same person with the media after every game.

The 10th-year University of Utah head coach is exceptionally even-keeled. Never too high, never too low, and sometimes expressionless while generally giving a thoughtful, informational answer to whatever he is asked, win or lose.

When Krystkowiak hopped on a postgame Zoom call late Sunday afternoon, his presence offered everyone a different vibe than the usual, and honestly, who could blame him?

The Utes led the University of Washington for three-quarters of a game Sunday, but three turnovers inside the final 2:02 were the undoing as the Huskies, within striking distance for the entirety of the second half, finally got over the hump for an 83-79 win at Hec Edmundson Pavilion in Seattle.

In the immediate postgame haze, after a somber Krystkowiak cited “bad coaching” as a reason for the late-game collapse, he fielded a question regarding what could have been done differently in regard to those three turnovers the final 2:02, all of which turned into points. There was an awkward nine-second silence as Krystkowiak gathered himself before answering.

“Well, we had three passing errors and one dribbling error, so I would like to have any of the passes back that we threw,” Krystkowiak said. “Got into the paint, Timmy (Allen) got stripped. Rylan (Jones) threw a ball away and Ian (Martinez) threw a ball away, so that’s what needed to change.”

Allen was terrific on Sunday afternoon, getting into the lane seemingly at will against a mostly porous Washington defense and dropping off pass after pass for waiting teammates at the rim. His career-high 10 assists all came before he was stripped in the lane by Huskies graduate transfer Erik Stevenson. That turnover led to Quade Green getting fouled and making two free throws, cutting Washington’s deficit to one with 1:55 left.

Still up one after Martinez and Washington’s Jamal Bey traded buckets, Martinez, who played well Sunday after logging all of 52 seconds Thursday night at Washington State, threw a pass away to Stevenson, who took it the other way for a transition layup, plus the foul, for an 81-79 Huskies lead after his free throw.

Jones threw a pass away the next time down, taken away by Jamal Bey with 37 seconds left. Bey hit a couple of free throws to cap a career-high 28-point day on just 11 shots to ice the game and cap the scoring.

“I just think we picked the wrong spots in a couple of situations,” Allen said. “On my turnover, specifically, I was about to kick it out, and he ripped it from me. You just have to be better, try and stay one step ahead of the defense. I don’t think much changed (late in the game), you just have to make the play the defense presents to you.”

That is a tough loss to stomach if you’re Utah. Looking to sweep the Pac-12′s Pacific Northwest trip for the first time since 2018, the Utes (6-7, 3-6 Pac-12) were up 12 early, then gave it all back before halftime. Still, they were in control for the entirety of the second half against a team in the bottom quarter of the league, one they already beat 14 points to open the season on Dec. 3.

Allen was three rebounds shy of a triple-double, and Branden Carlson continued his strong recent play with 18 points and five rebounds. The Utes got 36 points from the bench, shot 50.8% from the floor, and averaged a respectable 1.082 points per possession against a Washington team ranked last in the Pac-12 in defensive efficiency.

Instead of being able to focus on those things after a sweep, Krystkowiak had to focus on the late turnovers as part of a split, with a week to think about things before traveling to an NCAA Tournament-caliber outfit, Colorado, on Saturday (7:30, Pac-12 Networks).

“It was a back-and-forth kind of game, they responded and hit some 3s when they needed to,” Krystkowiak said. “They had players that stepped up and made some big plays as well. It comes down to valuing every possession.

“We would have loved to have gotten a road sweep, but you have to be better. There were plenty of possessions where we beat ourselves”