Miller: Runnin’ Utes suffer performance issues in front of apathetic UCLA crowd

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In hindsight, Utah’s performance in its 69-59 loss to UCLA on Thursday night shouldn’t have been surprising.

There have been glimpses and signs of it before. We had plenty of forewarning.

RELATED: NO. 11 RUNNIN’ UTES FALL 69-59 IN BATTLE WITH THE BRUINS

The Utes played a nearly unwatchable game against San Diego State, they were awful in the first half at Kansas and were dismantled in the second half against Arizona.

Oh, and throw in last years’ atrocious efforts away from Salt Lake, and the seeds had already been sown. It appears the Pac-12 fan bases had taken notice too.

Even before the first shot was taken at the Pauley Pavilion on Thursday, there was a manifestation of where Utah stands.

On the surface, the 2014-15 Utes have all the makings of a national power. They have a well-respected coach, a National Player of the Year candidate, rising stars and a high national ranking. Everything is there. But something is missing — respect.

Before the Bruins and Utes tipped off, a 7-12 Missouri team welcomed in an undefeated No. 1 Kentucky. Despite having little to no hope of taking down the Wildcats, the Mizzou Arena was packed to the brim, and the Tiger student section was loud and excited with dreams of an upset.

No one will argue that Utah is on the same level as Kentucky, but UCLA’s crowd on Thursday showed the Utes aren’t even close. The Bruins’ home arena was littered with empty seats, and UCLA’s student section was nearly nonexistent in a scene that felt very close to apathetic.

Utah’s performance echoed that feeling.

This is the first year since entering the Pac-12 that Utah is in the upper-echelon of the league. No matter how many blowouts they register at the Huntsman Center, to really prove they belong, the Utes must take their act on the road.

Utah’s conference road games this season have shown the other fan bases aren’t yet convinced of what Krystkowiak has built.

UCLA’s gym was half-empty, and Arizona State’s gym was nowhere near full, so it’s clear Utah isn’t a marquee ticket. Fans around the conference simply aren’t exited to come see their team welcome in the Utes, and after Utah’s performance Thursday night, why should they?

Excuses and justifications were made for their previous road losses, but it’s impossible to defend this one. UCLA is not the team of old, hell, it isn’t even a tournament team. Utah absolutely crushed this squad when they met in Salt Lake and quite frankly should have again.

Utah may be good enough to take time off during games and still collect easy wins, but maybe it’s not. Because the Utes’ performance Thursday night reeked of over-confidence, and they got punched right in the mouth. There was no passion, no urgency and really no pride.

The Ute players often say they feed off the Huntsman Crowd, and they fed off another one against the Bruins. An apathetic crowd led to an apathetic performance.

So, Utah fans, if you want this team to make a tournament run, get ready to travel because the Utes will be going home pretty dang early if they aren’t getting cheered for.

[email protected]tah.edu

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