OREM — Even in a loss, a team can learn useful information. In Wednesday's 103-96 setback to Iowa, the Utah Flash not only found out that they can play with the Energy, they realized they could outplay them.
Now, with potentially two more meetings with Iowa upcoming, Flash head coach Kevin Young hopes his team can outplay the Energy for an entire game.
The home loss — the opener of the best-of-three first round NBA D-League playoff series — marked the third time in as many tries Utah has fallen to Iowa this season. The next game (and if necessary, Game 3) will be played Monday and Tuesday in Des Moines, Iowa.
"We're going to take the good things from this one, and go there and play hard," Young said. "Once they see the film and see how close they really were, I think they'll realize that it's doable."
The first half was played at a frantic pace, a style which favored Iowa. The Energy opened up a close game early when they went on a 13-2 run to lead 22-12.
When Utah battled back, the Energy closed the first half by outscoring the Flash 19-9 to take a 57-45 lead at the break.
During that stretch, a crucial series of events — all going Iowa's way — occurred. First, Utah's Brandon Costner hobbled off the court during play after twisting his ankle — he wouldn't return. Then, Iowa's Charles Garcia produced a highlight reel dunk in traffic, posterizing Tony Gaffney.
And finally, Young was slapped with a technical foul with just one second left in the first half.
Obvious adjustments were made by Utah in the second half of play, something Young discussed after the game.
"When you play (Iowa), they want to run. They average 113 points a game. They want to get out in transition," Young said. "The first half was kind of a rat race, but in the second half, we obviously controlled the pace better."
While slowing the Energy down, Utah also cut back on the turnovers (11 in the first half, five after halftime) and also started shooting the ball better. The Flash went on a 19-8 scoring spurt that included four straight 3-pointers (a pair each both Andre Ingram and Kevin Kruger). That pulled them to within 65-64.
Utah took a 73-72 lead on Orien Greene's 3-pointer in the third period's final minute.
But after Iowa regained the lead, Utah found itself again battling from behind for the entire final quarter. After a basket by Nkem Ojougboh brought the Flash back to within 99-95, a clumsy turnover led to an Iowa field goal, and it was out of reach.
Young pointed out some positive performances that Utah hopes to build on.
"Andre (Ingram) shot well, especially with the 3," Young said. Ingram finished with a team-high 22 points, and was 5-of-10 from three-point range. "And after (Costner) went down with the injury, it was good to see Nkem (Ojougboh) go step up and have a huge performance."
Ojougboh had 17 points and 14 rebounds. Costner had 10 rebounds and nine points in just 14 minutes before getting hurt.
Greene (seven assists, six rebounds) and Kevin Kruger (six assists, seven rebounds) both contributed 15 points.
Curtis Stinson scored a game-high 29 points for the Energy, and also finished with nine assists and seven rebounds. Marqus Blakely contributed 15 points and 13 rebounds, and teammates Michael Haynes and Shy Ely had 14 and 12 points, respectively.
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