The hot-button issue in the immediate aftermath of the University of Utah’s 67-64 loss at the University of Oregon on Saturday night was a questionable double-dribble call on Timmy Allen.
With the Utes (9-10, 6-9 Pac-12) down one with the ball, Allen never appeared to possess a loose ball, but when he picked it up to dribble, referee Deldre Carr made the call. The ball went back to Oregon, senior guard Chris Duarte hit two free throws with three seconds left, and Allen’s desperation 35-foot bomb for the tie never had a chance.
Utes head coach Larry Krystkowiak did a good job of censoring his thoughts on the matter postgame, but he said enough where at least a reprimand from the league office could come Monday morning.
“Wow, all I can say is wow,” Krystkowiak said after offering a bellowing, sarcastic laugh after the question was asked. “We scrapped, we played our butts off, and it wasn’t error-free by any means. We made plenty of mistakes, Oregon made plenty of mistakes, [Ducks head coach] Dana [Altman] made plenty of mistakes, but I think at the end of the day, we let the players determine a game. To make up a call at the end? That didn’t even happen? That is mind-boggling.”
The call was iffy at best. It contributed to costing Utah a game it could have won against a likely-NCAA Tournament participant, but the underrated part of that entire sequence is what preceded the turnover.
Freshman guard Pelle Larsson, who was otherwise very good Saturday night in posting 13 points, seven rebounds, and five assists in 37 minutes, tried to squeeze a tough pass in traffic to Branden Carlson, which led to the loose ball, which led to the iffy double-dribble.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but Larsson may have been better served keeping the ball on the floor, going downhill and getting to the rim. If he does that and stays in control, he potentially draws a foul, gets the tying bucket, or even both. For what it’s worth, Larsson entered the night shooting 91.7% from the foul line, and went 4-for-4 against the Ducks.
Late-game execution, or lack thereof, on Saturday night felt like it could have used the calming backcourt influence of Rylan Jones, who missed his fourth-straight game with a right shoulder injury. Krystkowiak put a pin in that notion.
“I didn’t miss anybody tonight because I was 100% in with the guys that were on our bus coming in here,” Krystkowiak said. “Players, bench, subs, starters, you name it. We’re a connected group of guys and Rylan’s one of those guys on the bus. He’s not playing right now and I’m focused on the other guys.”
Regardless of the officiating and how Krystkowiak or anyone else feels about it, Saturday night marked the latest in what has been an abundance of stomach-turning Utah losses this season.
The Utes now have nine conference losses. Seven of those losses have come by a combined 33 points, which makes the average margin of defeat in those losses 4.7 points. Of Utah’s nine Pac-12 losses, it led at halftime in five of them.
Within those five, the Utes coughed up 10-point halftime losses at home to Oregon and Colorado over the course of three days, then led Cal by 12 at the break, yielded 50 second-half points, and lost by nine.
Making this all the more maddening is that, with wins over Colorado, Stanford and Arizona, the Utes have proven capable of beating quality opponents. The Buffaloes are going to the NCAA Tournament, the Cardinal have been on various sides of the bubble lately, and the Wildcats would be tourney-bound had they not self-imposed a one-year postseason ban.