SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah basketball team had just played 14 minutes of its best ball of the season as the Utes were cruising along with a 30-16 lead against an Oregon team picked to be the preseason favorite in the Pac-12.
Then it all went kaput with an onslaught of turnovers over the final six minutes of the half. By halftime, the Utes had turned the ball over 13 times total — eight times in those six minutes — and watched their 14-point lead turn into a four-point deficit. And it wasn’t just one player, as everyone seemed to get into the act.
First came a 30-second shot clock violation, followed by a 10-second violation when the Utes couldn’t get the ball past the midcourt line. The Ducks capitalized on both and trimmed the lead to 30-22. A poor pass by Riley Battin led to a layup and a turnover by Jayce Johnson led to another basket, and suddenly it was 30-27.
The Utes went a couple of minutes without a turnover and made four free throws, but they made four more miscues in the final 1:44 of the half as Johnson was called for an offensive foul and Novak Topalovic threw one away. Then Donnie Tillman and Both Gach both made poor passes that led to Oregon baskets as the Ducks took a lead they would never give up.
“It snowballs, it’s a momentum deal,” said coach Larry Krystkowiak. “The nature of them was pretty silly. We floated passes they ran right through ... we came to a jump stop ... It got out of control.”
Krystkowiak said his team had practiced against the press all week, even using extra defenders to try to simulate the Ducks’ pressure.
“It’s crazy how that affects you and then all of a sudden when you do break the press, there’s a little something off with your rhythm offensively,” he said. “It really creeps into your whole offensive scheme.”
In the second half, the Utes cut their turnovers to four, but for good measure had another 10-second violation and a few more bad passes.
MORE ‘FOUL’ SHOOTING: After the Utes went 3 for 9 from the free-throw line against Cal last week, Krystkowiak called his team’s free-throw shooting “atrocious.” He didn’t use that word Thursday night, but he could have said Utes were still abysmal from the line, missing 10 free throws and ending up 56.5 percent from the line.
“We got to make them,” he said. “We’ve got to get Jayce (Johnson) dialed in (he was 1 for 6). They’re free points — when we get there, we’ve got take advantage of it.”1 comment on this story
UTE NOTES: With the loss, the Utes fell to 10-21 all time against Oregon and 2-14 since joining the Pac-12 ... The only home win was 72-62 in 2013 and the only road win was last season in Eugene 66-56 ... Before the game, the Utes honored longtime Utah Sports Information Director Bruce Woodbury, who passed away last week. Woodbury was the U.’s SID from 1973 to 2007 ... It was throwback night as the Utes wore uniforms from some 50 years ago and the cheerleaders also wore old-time outfits ... This is the only regular-season meeting between the Utes and Ducks. They have met four times in Pac-12 Tournament play, so that’s always a possibility ... A few Utah Jazz players were on hand for Thursday’s game, including Donovan Mitchell and Royce O’Neale. Also on hand were several Atlanta Hawks players, including rookie Trae Young. The Jazz and Hawks play Friday night.