STANFORD, Calif. — The Stanford basketball team must wish it could play Utah every game. And the Utes are glad they’re unlikely to see the Cardinal again after getting blown out for the second time this season, this time by an 84-66 count at Maples Pavilion Sunday afternoon.
Earlier this year, Stanford routed the Utes 87-56 at the Huntsman Center in a game they shot the lights out. Just like on that snowy January night in Salt Lake, the Cardinal shot the ball well, particularly from 3-point range, where they hit 11 of 26.
The ironic thing was, the Utes came into the game as the No. 1 team in the Pac-12 in field-goal percentage defense (39.0 percent). However, they didn’t have an answer for the Cardinal, who were above 50 percent all game before dropping to 48.3 percent after coach Johnny Dawkins cleared his bench.
Stanford had come in struggling, having lost four of its last five games, only to suddenly find the range against the Utes, who dropped to 11-17 overall and 3-13 in Pac-12 play.
“We had breakdowns,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “The first half we weren’t really locked in guarding them. Some is a credit to their ability to stretch the floor. We tried to play some zone, and that didn’t work.”
Stanford’s junior guard Chasson Randle hurt the Utes most, scoring 22 points on 7-of-14 shooting, including 4 of 9 from 3-point range. John Gage came off the bench to score 11 points, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range, while Dwight Powell hurt the Utes inside with 15 points and eight rebounds.
“Tonight we had breakdowns in dribble handoffs and pick and roll coverage. We were getting beat off the dribble and they were kicking to guys to hit threes.” Krustkowiak said. “A couple of inefficiencies for us we need to work on.”
Stanford hasn’t been a great shooting team this year, ranking dead-last in the Pac-12 in field goal percentage at 41.3 percent, although in Pac-12 play it was tops in 3-point shooting. However, in the first half, when the Cardinal jumped out to a big lead, it looked like the Utes were hardly guarding them.
“We allowed them to get some open baskets and 3-point shots and that allowed them to separate themselves from us,” said Ute guard Jarred DuBois. “Good offense is always going to beat good defense. If you play hard and they hit a contested shot, there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Stanford raced out to a 44-31 halftime lead over the Utes, thanks to 53.3 percent shooting and 7 of 14 from 3-point range. The Utes found some life early in the second half, hitting their first four shots and getting within four points at 49-45 and 51-47.
However, a couple of turnovers (where have we heard that before?) — by DuBois and freshman Justin Seymour — handed the momentum back to Stanford, which scored nine straight to make it 60-47 with 13:23 left.
“We had two consecutive turnovers when we were in striking distance,” said Krystkowiak. “I don’t know if there’s anything that’s sucking the life out of our team more right now than turning the ball over. When they take it down and score, it really compounds the issue.”
Aside from a couple of untimely turnovers, DuBois had one of his better games, scoring 22 points, including 6 of 9 from the field and 9 of 9 from the free-throw line. Jordan Loveridge had 11 points and six rebounds, while Jason Washburn finished with 10 points and six rebounds.
Afterwards, Krystkowiak talked about the possibility of playing Stanford in the Pac-12 tournament and perhaps figuring out the Cardinal next time around. However, that’s unlikely since the Cardinal (17-13, 8-9) appear to be locked into the 8 vs. 9 game against Washington, and the Utes will likely play Colorado, USC or Arizona State in the opening round. The Utes and Cardinal would have to meet after a couple of wins each.
But that may be for the best since the Utes haven’t played well yet this year against Stanford.
“We don’t match up very well against them,’’ Krystkowiak said. “They’ve got athleticism at some spots and they’ve got our number for whatever reason.”