PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — The University of Utah basketball team got what they expected last night, but struggled to handle the full-court defensive pressure of the University of Massachusetts, as the Utes fell 89-75 to the Minutemen in the consolation bracket semifinal of the Battle 4 Atlantis.
UMass (5-1) entered the game forcing an average of 21.4 turnovers per game and scoring 24.5 points off those miscues, so the Utes (1-4) knew what to expect, but they still struggled with the 90-foot press and committed 19 turnovers, which led to 31 points for the Minutemen.
"I was proud of the way we competed," said head coach Larry Krystkowiak, "but we haven't faced that kind of pressure, length and athletic ability before. You can't simulate that in practice, and it kind of overwhelmed us."
Utah was able to break the press early in the game and jumped out to an 8-3 lead, but then gave it up on three straight possessions that led to UMass taking a 9-8 lead.
"I liked the way we started, but committed three straight turnovers, which got the momentum going in the other direction," Krystkowiak said.
A 3-pointer by Kareem Storey gave Utah a 24-19 lead with 10:52 left in the first half, but then the Minutemen unleashed a barrage of treys of their own, as they went on a 16-4 run with the help of four consecutive 3-pointers, including three by Jesse Morgan, who made all five of his shots from beyond the arc in the first half after making just 21 percent in his first four games of the season.
UMass led 44-35 at halftime despite Utah hitting on 68 percent of their field goal attempts and outrebounding the Minutemen 14-11. Jason Washburn's slam dunk to open the second half pulled the Utes to within seven, but that would be as close as they would get the rest of the way.
Josh Watkins led Utah with 16 points, as he made 7 of 11 from the field, while adding seven assists and three rebounds.
"We got lackadaisical with the ball," said Watkins, who committed just three turnovers of his own. "We need to fight to the end so that we can leave the Bahamas with a win."
Storey added 12 points for the Utes, while Washburn chipped in 11.
Morgan led five UMass players in double figures with 15 points. The 75 points scored by Utah was a season high, but so was the 89 points allowed. The Utes shot a season-high 60 percent from the field and 50 percent (6 for 12) from 3-point range and outrebounded UMass 32-27.
With the loss, Utah will face North Carolina-Asheville in the seventh place game on Saturday night at 7:30 MST.
The Bulldogs fell 68-66 to the College of Charleston on Friday night in the other consolation semifinal.
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EXTRA POINTS: Among those in attendance this weekend were golfing legend Nick Faldo, basketball Hall of Famers Michael Jordan, whose two sons (Marcus and Jeffrey) play for Central Florida, and George "The Ice Man" Gervin and a slew of NBA scouts including Utah Jazz Director of Player Personnel Walt Perrin.
HARVARD STUNS FSU
Brandyn Curry and Harvard beat No. 22 Florida State at its own game Friday, locking up one of the nation's best defensive teams with its own terrific defense.
Curry had six points, five assists, and five steals to help the Crimson upset the Seminoles 46-41 in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Harvard will face Central Florida in the tournament's title game.