The University of Utah men’s basketball team bounced back following a loss to the then No. 10 team in the country, the Oregon Ducks, as it beat Oregon State 86-78 this past Saturday. While the Runnin’ Utes came out on top, however, they were a few hiccups that made the game a bit too close for comfort late down the stretch.
Utah had built itself a 28 point lead about eight minutes or so into the second half of the game. The Utes were expected to come away with a large margin of victory heading into the match considering Oregon State had yet to win a Pac-12 game (the Beavers are still looking for that first win of conference following Saturday’s loss).
With about 11 minutes left to play in the game, head coach Larry Krystkowiak pulled his starters, and for valid reason as he did not want anyone from his core groups of players risking an injury as the Utes seemingly had control of the game. As the game dragged on, OSU kept inching closer and closer. With under a minute to go, the Beavers had made it a two possession game as they found themselves down by six points and Utah continued to make things harder on itself.
Any player and coach on the team will say that they work on free throws in practice, however, that did not look so apparent as the Utes shot 53.8 percent from the charity stripe. So when OSU was forced to foul Utah in the hopes that the Utes would miss free throws, the strategy worked to its favor and it’s why the final result showed an eight point loss rather than a 28 point loss they could have very well taken.
JoJo Zamora admits that he did not think the Beavers would make the game competitive down the stretch. He cites the Utes’ poor effort and energy throughout certain parts of the game as one of the reasons why OSU got back into the game.
“I was surprised they came back,” Zamora said. “I kind of figured it was going to happen, because the whole game we were taking a foot off the pedal. Even in the first half we weren’t really playing with energy so it came back to haunt us.”
The Utes keep harping on the fact that they need to work on the little things in practice, but Krystkowiak has also mentioned that it is hard to fit every single little thing into just a few practices. He will work with the other members of the coaching staff to come up with more in-game scenarios regarding free throw shooting.
“You take your deficiencies and plug in time at practice and if it is becoming a pattern then we are obviously going to have to practice more,” Krystkowiak said. “It is difficult to do free throw shooting under pressure, but we will get a little creative and come up with some of that stuff.”
As the Utes continue to work on some of the same issues that have been there all season long, they’re looking ahead to this week’s slate of games against Cal and Stanford.