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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Runnin? Utes missing free throws by the bundle

By Bubba Brown

You could argue that the Runnin’ Utes did not lose their Saturday game against Oklahoma when the clock struck 0:00 in the overtime period. Rather, they lost it down the stretch in regulation by missing free throws by the bundle.

Utah shot a paltry 41.7 percent from the line in the second half and failed to capitalize on easy points that turned out to be the difference in the game.

“That was pretty much the game,” said forward Jay Watkins. “They came down and made all their free throws, and we missed a couple of ours and that was the game.”

The main culprit was guard Carlon Brown. Normally rock-solid from the line, Brown entered the game shooting over 80 percent from the line on the season. But in the second half against the Sooners, Brown made just four of eight free throw attempts, including three in a row with the Utes trailing late in the period. However, Brown was certainly not the only one to blame. As a whole, Utah made just five free throws in 12 attempts in the second half.

The Sooners, on the other hand, made the most of their time at the charity stripe, knocking down 21 of 27 second half attempts for a 78 percent mark.

The discrepancy in free throw efficiency between the two teams Saturday perfectly illustrated the old basketball adage that in close games, the team that makes their free throws often wins.

“You’ve got to make your free throws in big games,” said coach Jim Boylen, who acknowledged that his team missed too many free throws down the stretch.

Missing crucial free throws is not something the Utes are accustomed to. Over the past two seasons, they have established themselves as one of the top free throw shooting teams in the nation. They came in to the game shooting a respectable 74 percent from the line this season, which ranked in the top 50 in the country. A season ago, Utah finished third in the country in free throw shooting at 78 percent.

Other factors contributed to the loss as well, such as Utah missing their last 15 three point attempts and making just one overtime bucket, but had the Utes made just one of their seven missed free throws in the second half, they would have walked away winners in regulation and capped off one of the biggest weeks in Utah basketball regular season history with back-to-back wins over two high-profile programs in Michigan and Oklahoma. Instead, the Utes were left wondering what could have been.

“It was heartbreaking,” Watkins said of coming so close to defeating the Sooners only to lose. “It was one of those feeling like around Christmas time when you know you want something and you feel like you’re going to get it and then you open your present and it’s not what you expected.”

[email protected]

Mike Mangum

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