Utes beat themselves with high turnover rate

The U basketball team finished Monday night’s game with more turnovers than made baskets, which was the entire story in the Cougars 70-57 win.

The offense was absolutely horrendous for the Utes and after a first-half meltdown, Utah could not comeback as they did in Salt Lake City earlier in the year. A season-high 23 turnovers for the Utes, to BYU’s seven was the difference and the hottest team in the conference won their seventh straight game.

“If you have 23 turnovers, you are going to lose,” Ute senior Nick Jacobson said. “Even though I don’t want to say we beat ourselves, we made some unforced turnovers that really gave them the momentum.”

BYU solidified the second place spot and that is as high as they will go, since Air Force defeated San Diego State, 61-49 to clinch the regular season conference title. Even if Utah wins next week and the Cougars lose, the fact that BYU defeated Air Force once will give them the edge in the tiebreaker for second.

After not scoring a single point for the first four minutes of the game, it seemed that Utah (20-8, 8 5) would impose its defensive will throughout the entire game. But with two steals by Mike Hall and a couple shots by Mark Bigelow, the Cougars (19-7, 9-4) got back into the thick of things. With the crowd of the Marriott Center behind them, the Cougars exploded, as they completed a 19-2 run to finish the half.

“I don’t know what happened in that stretch, but it seemed like BYU settled down after being excited about Senior Night, and we turned the ball over,” Jacobson said.

It was the Ute mistakes that allowed the Cougars to get back into the game and take the lead. Seventeen of the Cougars 26 first half points came off Ute turnovers, which may have been a result of the absolutely intense crowd noise. The turnovers resulted in fast-break points which made the crowd even more hostile.

“They got a lot of easy baskets,” U center Tim Frost said. “Their pressure was tough and we gave up a lot of fast breaks.”

The offense was stagnant and the Utes seemed like they did not know what to do, much like the first half of the game in Salt Lake City. The gameplan was scrapped and the Utes could never get comfortable in their offense.

“We did not prepare the guys well to handle the pressure and that is my fault,” U head coach Kerry Rupp said.

The second half wasn’t any better for the Utes. Even after scoring the first four points, the Cougars defense stiffened and the offense capitalized on even more turnovers.

After a quiet first half, BYU center Raphael Araujo scored 6 quick points and the Utes seemed to be in disarray, as the Cougars extended the lead to 34-23.

But another quick foul in the second half gave Araujo three fouls, which gave the Utes a chance to come back with their size in the middle.

Even though Cleveland kept Araujo in the game, the Utes started to cut into the lead with baskets from seniors Tim Frost and Nick Jacobson.

But it was the BYU senior Bigelow, who answered the calls for the Marriott Center crowd with five straight points. He finished the game with 19 points and three field goals from beyond the arc.

With six minutes left in the game the Cougars maintained their nine-point lead, but this time the Cougars would not relinquish it.

BYU answered every blow the Utes dealt them with blows of their own. After a Bogut three pointer, Terrence Woodberry also hit a three to take the air out of Utah.

After a dunk by Hall to give the Cougars a 55-45 lead, a desperation heave by Jacobson was long and BYU had the victory within their grasps.

An airball on a three pointer by Bogut sealed the Utes fate, but it was amazing that the Utes were even as close as they were throughout the game, considering the ineptitude of the offense.

“We were just standing around a lot of the second half,” Rupp said.

In his last game playing against BYU, Jacobson finished the game with a team-high 16 points, but Hall did an amazing job defending him throughout the contest.

Along with the great defensive performance, Hall also had a game-high 21 points and the two steals that really got the team going in the first half.

The only positive that the Utes could get out of the game was how close they were even with the horrible offensive play.

“We had all those turnovers, but we were fighting all the way till the end,” Jacobson said.

“If we cut those turnovers in half, then we would have been right their competing for the victory,” Rupp said.

But now, the Utes are in a tight position and it looks like they will have to win the conference tournament to sniff the NCAAs.

“It looked like we were going to have to win the conference tournament anyway and at least it is in Denver,” Jacobson said. “There is no home-court advantage anymore.”

If the Utes and Cougars both win there first-round matchup in the tournament, then they will play each other or a third time on a neutral court.

“What is better than two teams who split at home in the regular season to play in the conference tournament on a neutral court?” Jacobson said. But if the Utes execute on offense in the tournament like they did against the Cougars Monday night, then there will be no way they will make it to the semi-final game to meet BYU.

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