PALO ALTO, Calif. – It was a familiar, yet disconcerting scenario that unfolded Thursday night at the University of California’s Haas Pavilion, where the Utah basketball team fell to 11-16 on the season (3-11 in Pac-12 play) in a 64-46 loss.
For the second straight game, the Utes bounded to an early lead against one of the Pac-12’s better teams on the road, only to crumble late in the first half and start poorly in the second half.
The Utes led 22-14 with six-and-a-half minutes left in the first half, only to see Cal finish the half with a 20-2 run that extended to 26-2 early in the second. The 16-point deficit was too much to overcome.
A week earlier against Colorado, the Utes led the Buffs 26-21 late in the half, before a 9-2 run put Colorado up by two at halftime. Then an 11-3 spurt to start the second half made it a 20-5 Buffalo run the Utes could never recover from.
Despite the 29.1 percent shooting, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak wasn’t complaining about the Utes’ shot selection Thursday, except for the final minutes when they threw up a few wild ones.
“We missed a bunch of open looks — some were just an inch long on the rim, right on target,’’ Krystowiak said.
The problem was, the shots weren’t going through the hoop as the Utes finished below 30 percent for the first time all season, well below the previous low of 34.5 percent in an earlier loss to Arizona State.
“Execution wise we're getting good looks and I’m pretty pleased with that when we’re not turning the ball over,’’ he said.
NEW GAMEPLAN: The Utes came out with a different gameplan Thursday night against Cal, actually pushing the ball and taking shots early on the shot clock, rather than passing the ball around for 30 seconds.
It was a good strategy against a Cal team whose starters play more minutes than any other team in the league. The Utes were using a lot of players, four reserves in the opening six minutes of the game and trying to tire out their opponent.
“I brought that up to our guys — I was on the treadmill this morning and ran three miles and didn’t want to stop,’’ Krytkowiak said. “I felt I had some energy and I thought our guys were good, we were getting stops and pushing the ball and making some real up-tempo type plays.’’
However, the Utes weren’t making enough shots and then they had a rash of turnovers late in the half that turned the game around.
“It went real well for about 15 minutes and then the turnovers set in," Krystkowiak said. “So the turnovers led to their baskets, which meant we weren’t going to be able to keep that tempo up. You can’t break when you’re taking the ball out of the net.’’
UTE NOTES: The Utes moved across the water to Palo Alto from Berkeley and practiced Friday at Stanford. They’ll have another practice Saturday before Sunday’s 4 p.m. game . . . The Utes’ 87-56 loss to the Cardinal at the Huntsman Center earlier was their worst of the season . . . Stanford has lost four of five after a 65-63 setback to Colorado Wednesday night . . . Jason Washburn still needs 12 points to reach the 1,000-point mark for his career.
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