DALLAS — The Utes fell to SMU, 62-55 at Moody Coliseum on Wednesday night after a long scoring drought. With 10:50 left in the game, a long-range basket from Utah's Jarred Dubois made it a one-point game at 39-38. However, the Utes would go the next 7:23 without a field goal.
After trailing 35-25 at halftime, Utah (4-2) outscored the Mustangs 11-4 to start the second half and trailed by three at 39-36 with 12 minutes remaining. But after Dubois' bucket at 10:50, SMU quickly answered with a Jalen Jones dunk and after Jones made the ensuing free throw on a questionable foul call, the Mustangs went on a 10-0 run until a 3-pointer by Cedric Martin ended the Utah drought with 3:27 remaining.
"I think we showed a lot of fight. We got down — what was it 13 — and then we came back and cut the lead," Dubois, the game's top scorer with 25 points, said. "I think that was a positive that guys didn't give up. We were relentless and we just didn't come out with the win."
The game was close for most of the first half and with 4:52 remaining, the Utes trailed by one at 25-24. However, SMU (7-1) would go on a 10-1 run the rest of the opening half to build a 10-point advantage at the break.
One bright spot from the opening half was the Utah debut of junior guard Aaron Dotson, who entered the game with 15:24 remaining after suffering a stress fracture during preseason. It was Dotson's first game since March 2011 when he was at LSU. He finished with one steal in seven minutes.
"Probably threw him out there a little too early and in an environment like this because he hasn't had a lot of practice," Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said of Dotson's performance. "But that had to happen. This is his first DI game in along time. He's going to be helpful (to our team)."
For the game, the Utes were 22-of-57 from the field (39 percent) and 9-of-23 from long range (39 percent). But the most interesting number came at the line as SMU shot 21 free throws compared to just three by Utah. The Utes didn't shoot their first free throw of the game until Martin stepped to the line with 2:02 remaining.
"I respect the officials," Krystkowiak said. "We have to figure out a way to defend better so we're not fouling as much. And we have to figure out a way to draw our own fouls at that end instead of being in a hurry and out of balance. It wasn't a homer job and it wasn't oh, we're here in Texas, anything like that. That's an important fact that was written on the board (before the game), we've got to keep them off the free-throw line and we didn't do that."
It was the first meeting between the schools since 1997 when both were members of the Western Athletic Conference. Utah will get a second crack at the Mustangs on Dec. 18 when SMU visits the Huntsman Center. But for now, the Utes will look to finish their two-game Texas road trip on a positive note at Texas State on Friday night.
"We have a high character team. It's not time to start reinventing the wheel. We're going to stay together and we'll get through it," Krystkowiak said. "What we're looking at that we're not doing is addressable. We don't have any excuses. It's just important we start functioning as a unit."
Steve Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco, Texas.