HONOLULU — The Utah basketball team earned itself an early wake-up call on Christmas morning by losing to Hawaii 68-55 in a woeful performance at the Diamond Head Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center on Thursday night.
In Thursday's defeat to an undermanned Hawaii team that was missing its leading scorer to injury and had its starting point guard coming off an injury with a stiff back, the Utes couldn't shoot — 33.3 percent from the field, 6.7 percent from 3-point range, 66.7 percent from the foul line — and turned the ball over 18 times, while making just two assists in the entire game.
Because of the loss, the Utes will get up early Saturday morning, not to open presents, but to play San Diego at 9 a.m. Hawaii time (noon MST) in the 7th- and 8th-place game.
"We missed 38 shots, I was disappointed in that, and 1-for-15 from the 3 is obviously not where we want to be," said Utah coach Jim Boylen. "We have to start halves better and we have to start games better. But you have to give (Hawaii) credit, they played well."
The Utes dropped to 7-5 with their second straight loss in the islands, following a 74-62 loss to Butler in Wednesday's opening round, while Hawaii improved to 8-3.
Trailing 37-33 at halftime, the Utes came out of the locker room abysmally, turning the ball over five times and missing three shots before making a field goal as the Warriors went ahead 46-34.
Things didn't get much better as the Utes got within eight once before the Warriors lengthened their lead over the final 10 minutes.
Josh Watkins led the Utes with 16 points, while Will Clyburn scored 14 points.
Zane Johnson led the Warriors with 17 points, Joston Thomas added 15 and Hiram Thompson 13. The Warriors made one fewer field goal than Utah, but went 5-for-9 from 3-point range and 27-for-37 from the free-throw line.
The Utes got off to a rocky start to start the game and fell behind 10-2 before gradually getting back into the game. They tied the score at 19-19 on a free throw off a technical foul by the Hawaii bench and took their first lead at 21-19 on a putback by Clyburn.
However, the Warriors ran off 10 straight points to go up 29-21 with 5:35 left before Chris Hines broke the streak with pair of free throws.
Utah fought back within two points before the Warriors took a 37-33 lead into halftime.
The Warriors shot twice as many free throws in the first half (24) than the Utes and made 18, which was the difference.
For the second straight game, the Utes got little offensively from their center position. Jason Washburn went scoreless for the second straight game, while fouling out for the second straight game. David Foster scored two points on a pair of free throws, but did have a season-high nine rebounds and four blocked shots.
"We need more out of our centers and more out of our center play and we've got to keep working at it," said Boylen.
J.J. O'Brien, who returned to action Wednesday after sitting out six weeks, started Thursday and played 13 minutes, scoring four points before fouling out.
"We've got to play harder and follow the gameplan better," he said. "We still have high hopes for the season. This is just a minor setback."
In the earlier games Thursday at the tournament, Butler defeated Florida State 67-64 and Washington State upset No. 15 Baylor 77-71 in the championship bracket, while Mississippi State defeated San Diego 69-52 in the other consolation game.
Butler and Washington State will meet for the championship Saturday afternoon.
GAME NOTES: With his four blocks Thursday, Foster moved into second place on the Utes' all-time blocked shots list with 158. ... Utah won the rebound battle 39-29. ... Shawn Glover was scoreless, but grabbed nine rebounds. ... Hawaii is coached by Gib Arnold, the son of former BYU and Hawaii coach Frank Arnold. ... The Utes are now 47-10 all-time against Hawaii. ... Earlier this month, Hawaii lost to BYU 78-57 at the EnergySolutions Arena. ... After this tournament, the Utes will play their final non-conference game Dec. 31 against the University of Portland on the road before starting Mountain West Conference play Jan. 5 at Air Force.
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