As Thursday night’s game at Oregon State began, the University of Utah did not appear to be fully engaged with what was unfolding.
The offense was shoddy, the rebounding was worse, and there appeared to be a general malaise permeating a team that only a couple of weeks ago was showing real signs of life as the Pac-12 Tournament looms. Since a dominant win over Arizona on Feb. 4, there have been signs of regression, the latest of which came to the surface in a 74-56 loss to the Beavers that was mostly one-sided.
The raw numbers off the loss were startling. Twenty turnovers, six of which belonged to Timmy Allen, who was otherwise excellent with 24 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Utah (9-9, 6-8 Pac-12) shot 38.5% from the floor and 16.7% from 3-point range, finished minus-7 on the glass, and yielded 12 offensive rebounds.
“Our margin for error is not big enough to shoot ourselves in the foot,” Timmy Allen said.
Added Utes head coach Larry Krystkowiak: “I’ve never had a problem with a team beating us, but I really feel like a lot of this is self-inflicted right now and we’re doing a pretty good job of beating ourselves, and that can’t happen.”
There was a sequence early in the first half where it made it feel like it was going to be a long night for Utah.
A foul on Branden Carlson underneath after Beavers senior Roman Silva grabbed an offensive rebound was followed by a Jarod Lucas triple off the ensuing out-of-bounds play for a 5-0 lead. On Oregon State’s next offensive set, senior All-Pac-12 candidate Ethan Thompson followed his own miss at the rim for a layup. Ten seconds later, Carlson picked up his second foul and was done for the half at the 17:11 mark.
The whole thing portended the struggle that was to come, save for a quick start to the second half in which Carlson scored 10 points over the first 2:46 as the Utes got out to a 37-32 lead. That quickly dissipated, as did Utah’s hopes of getting the first end of this road trip, which takes it to Eugene to face Oregon on Saturday evening (7 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
“We had a lot of ball-watchers and you’re at the point of the season right now where we’re all trying to get to the finish line and I thought we had a scared look on our face,” Krystkowiak said. “Life is going to be hard, winning a basketball is going to be hard and I thought we thought it was going to be easier. We weren’t committed to working together offensively to get better shots.”
By any measurement, Thursday was ugly. If that type of play continues, things could get uglier as Utah’s schedule is pretty backloaded.
Oregon is on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble, but is in need of wins to stay there. A pair of NCAA locks also remain in UCLA (Feb. 25) and USC (Feb. 27). The Trojans have been particularly impressive lately, losing once since New Year’s to take control of the race for the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament.