SALT LAKE CITY — It was a tale of two halves Friday evening in the Huntsman Center — one good, one bad for the Utah Utes.
The latter, however, proved to be decisive as Cal State Northridge rallied from a 21-point deficit to defeat the Utes, 76-71.
“It was just really disheartening,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “It’s not the way you want to head out on the Christmas break, for sure.”
Momentum in basketball, he added, is a funny thing that way.
It certainly was on this night.
The Utes (7-4) led 48-27 at halftime, but were outscored 49-23 over the decisive final 20 minutes.
“They were a pressure team in the first half and we were making great plays against their pressure,” Krystkowiak said. “Then they just came out and basically manned us. We continued to try to make passes that weren’t there.”
The turnovers, he explained, were deflating and led to some easy baskets for the Matadors (9-3). Pressure built and the basket began to get smaller for the Utes. They missed 13 consecutive shots and went more than nine minutes without a field goal during a 22-2 run that gave Cal State Northridge the lead down the stretch.
The Matadors never trailed again after Landon Drew hit a jumper to make it 59-58 with 6:24 left to play.
“I don’t think we’re that bad of shooters,” Krystkowiak said after the Utes shot just 22.2 percent in the second half. “At the end of the day it’s the turnovers.”
Krystkowiak noted that they sucked the life out of the team and made the offense tighten up as the Utes tried to protect their lead. They had six turnovers in the first half and nine in the second.
Cal State Northridge wound up scoring 19 points on miscues by Utah.
Things were much different in the first half.
The Utes raced out to a 21-point advantage behind the play of Jordan Loveridge. The true freshman had 16 points and five rebounds in the first half.
Other key contributions came from Jarred DuBois (10 points, five assists), Jason Washburn (eight points), Aaron Dotson (eight points, four assists), Renan Lenz (three blocks) and Glen Dean (two steals).
Utah excelled on both sides of the court over the first 20 minutes— making 60 percent (18 of 30) of its shots on offense and limiting the normally high-scoring Matadors to just 39.3 percent (11 of 28) accuracy. The Utes held a 21-9 rebounding advantage at the break, as well as scoring edges in the paint (22-8) and second-chance points (9-2).
It wasn’t enough, though, to prevent the Utes from coming up short on a night when Arnie Ferrin, Wat Misaka and Herb Wilkinson were in the house. The trio, who led Utah to the 1944 NCAA basketball title, received a standing ovation during a halftime ceremony for the unveiling of a painting commemorating the championship by artist Opie Otterstad. The painting, which is part of the NCAA’s 75th anniversary celebration of March Madness, features head coach Vadal Peterson and Ferrin, the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
Before watching the game, Ferrin and Misaka weighed in on the state of the program in its second season under Krystkowiak. Utah has already surpassed last season's win total.
“I’m impressed with what our team is doing,” Ferrin said. “As I watch them they’re coachable. They’re doing things the coach wants and they’re playing hard.”
Ferrin also noted that Krystkowiak conducts himself well.
“I think he’s on the right track,” he said.
The Utes return to action Dec. 28 at home against the College of Idaho.
EXTRA STUFF: Loveridge finished with a game-high 24 points for the Utes. DuBois wound up with 17. ... Drew and Stephan Hicks each had 19 points for Cal State Northridge. ... Utah picked up a recruiting commitment from Ahmad Fields, a 6-foot-5, 190-pound shooting guard at Massanutten Military Academy in Virginia. ... Misaka celebrated his 89th birthday at the game. ... Utah is now 6-1 all-time against Cal State Northridge.
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