SALT LAKE CITY — Perhaps the Beavers built a dam.
Whatever the case may be, Oregon State plugged things up in a pivotal first-half stretch in an 81-72 win over Utah in the Huntsman Center.
After playing to a 9-9 tie over a sluggish start for both teams, Oregon State went on a 14-0 run to seize control of the game.
“I think tough kind of comes into play and I told our team that,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “We need to be tougher.”
Krystkowiak noted that the Utes need a collective toughness to secure rebounds and run.
“I just thought we weren’t ready coming out of the gates, making plays offensively,” he added. “Again, the offense, when you don’t see the ball going in it kind of sets you back on the defensive end.”
Ill-advised fouls, Krystkowiak said, were also a factor.
The Beavers held the Utes scoreless for more than four minutes during the swing. There was an additional drought as well — a really big one, in fact. Dating back to a basket by Jayce Johnson with 18:22 remaining in the first half, the Utes missed 10 straight shots and didn’t make another field goal until Timmy Allen scored just over nine minutes later. Utah’s lone points came on three free throws during the span.
“Just careless turnovers, not keeping the ball in front of us, and just some rebounding troubles on the offensive glass,” Johnson said in explaining the turn of events.
Trailing 23-9, Utah managed to cut the deficit to six points twice in the closing minutes. However, Oregon State finished the half with a 7-1 flurry to regain some breathing room.
The Beavers held a 46-32 halftime lead after making 50 percent of their shots from the field. The Utes, meanwhile, were stymied by 38 percent shooting and 10 turnovers.
As bad as things were, though, Utah showed some fight in the second half. Krystkowiak was pleased with how the Utes responded. They made six straight stops following the break.
The Utes climbed back into contention with back-to-back three-point plays by Donnie Tillman and Allen. The score by the latter reduced Oregon State’s lead to 53-47.
Although the Beavers countered with five straight points by Tres Tinkle, who finished with 31 by game’s end, Utah later pulled to within 60-55 on a free throw by Sedrick Barefield with 8:11 left in the game.
The Utes drew even closer, at 71-67, on a layup by Allen at 2:13. Tinkle, though, answered with a 3-pointer exactly 30 seconds later to thwart the threat. He made two free throws in the final minute to put the game out of reach. The Beavers eventually built a 12-point lead in the closing seconds.
“At the end of the day we got beat by some good players,” said Krystkowiak, who noted that Tinkle stepped up and had a “moment of truth play” with the long 3-point shot after Utah made it a two-possession game.
“They beat us,” Krystkowiak said. “They made plays when they needed to.”
Saturday afternoon’s setback was Utah’s second consecutive loss, dropping the Utes to 11-10 overall and 5-4 at the midway point of Pac-12 play.
“We’ve just got to get better. We’ve got to get better, which we’re committed to doing,” Krystkowiak said. “And keep trying, as we say, chop wood and make some progress.”41 comments on this story
Krystkowiak added that they need to address what some of the weaknesses are at this point. Primarily, he wants to see more of a “next-play mentality.”
Utah heads to Los Angeles next week. The Utes face USC on Wednesday and UCLA on Saturday. They return home Feb. 14 against Arizona.
EXTRA STUFF: The designated “Huntsman Strong” game paid tribute to the late Jon M. Huntsman, who passed away exactly one year ago . . . The attendance was 11,884 . . . Oregon State outrebounded Utah by a 35-34 margin. Johnson finished with a game-high 10 boards . . . Allen and Barefield finished with 24 and 19 points, respectively, for Utah.