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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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Miller: Utes knocked down, but not out after Duke loss



Two weeks ago when the Utes were knocked out of the Pac-12 Tournament, sorrow filled their locker room. Players talked in voices that were barely louder than whispers and some even held back tears. There was shock, sadness — nothing more.

As the Ute players packed up their belongings after being eliminated from the NCAA tournament Friday by Duke, there was a different feeling — pride.


“I’m proud,” Brandon Taylor said. “We got to the Sweet 16 and not many teams can say that. I’m happy the way we fought and we fought each and every day. … We didn’t get the win but it’s a blessing to be a part of this team… I’ve never been a part of a group of guys like this in my life, and I’m extremely appreciative and I’m proud of each one of my teammates.”

Utah didn’t play a perfect game — far from it. The Utes missed shots, turned the ball over at an alarming rate, and had no answer for Duke’s Justise Winslow.

“When shots don’t fall it plays a role different aspects of your game,” Taylor said. “You start to think too much, you start to turn the ball over and then the next you know you’re out of the game.”

That pretty much summed up the first 30 minutes of Friday’s game. The Utes were out of sorts offensively, be it because the moment, the opponent, or the large arena, Utah couldn’t seem to throw a beach ball into an ocean. And when the shots didn’t fall, other problems started creeping in.

The Utes started committing unforced turnovers and ill-timed fouls as the game slowly got further and further out of reach. But even after dropping down by 15 mid-way through the second half, the Utes didn’t cave, instead they went down swinging.

“We always do that,” Larry Krystkowiak said. “We had eight minutes to go in the game. I talked about that, you know, and sometimes we need a little bit more of that sense of urgency early in the game. But we do a nice job of responding when we get down and coming back, we’ve come back any number of games and the kids have never quit. So, I think that’s important and that’s something we talk about in our program. It’s really hard to beat somebody that never gives up. That’s not just a basketball deal, that’s in life and in general, and that’s one of the things we try to get across to our players.”

The Utes may have been beat, but they at least made it tough for the Blue Devils. Suddenly shots that were rimming out, started finally dropping and a quick 9-0 run cut the Duke lead to six and suddenly hope was there.

Utah couldn’t quite get over the mountain though, and are now headed home, but though there was the sting of sadness from defeat, it was still a time to celebrate the season.

Expectations rose so fast that it’s sometimes easy to forget that the Utes hadn’t been to the Big Dance since 2009, and hadn’t been to the Sweet 16 since 2005. This was a remarkable season that made Utah — a former national power — once again relevant. That is worth celebrating.

“It’s that point in the year where it’s been a heck of a year from September all the way till now, and these kids have given us their heart and souls for the entire year, unbelievable group of guys,” Krystkowiak said.

A group that leaves Houston early, but with their heads held high.

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