Runnin’ Utes Fall Flat in the Second Half, Lose to Cal

University+of+Utah+sophomore+forward+Mikael+Jantunen+%2820%29+goes+for+a+layup+during+an+NCAA+Basketball+game+vs.+the+Stanford+Cardinals+at+the+Jon+M.+Huntsman+Center+in+Salt+Lake+City%2C+Utah+on+Thursday%2C+Jan.+14%2C+2021.+%28Photo+by+Kevin+Cody+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29

University of Utah sophomore forward Mikael Jantunen (20) goes for a layup during an NCAA Basketball game vs. the Stanford Cardinals at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (Photo by Kevin Cody | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ethan Pearce, Assistant Sports Editor

 

The University of Utah men’s basketball team took a disappointing loss Saturday night, falling to the California Golden Bears, 72-63. Utah is now 5-6 overall, 2-5 in the Pac-12. 

First Half

It was a bit of a choppy start offensively for both teams with quite a few turnovers on both sides in the first five minutes. Utah quickly found some offensive rhythm, however, and jumped out to a 15-5 lead. Head coach Larry Krystkowiak tinkered with his lineups a bit early, inserting sophomore center Lahat Thioune into the game after the usual big man — sophomore Branden Carlson — picked up two early fouls. He had not played much over the last few games and had been stuck deep on Krystkowiak’s bench. 

Utah’s defense was also a force throughout the first part of the game, holding Cal to just seven points in ten minutes. The defense was practically flawless, but a few mental lapses late in the first half left some light for the Golden Bears. 

The offense didn’t quite hold up their end of the bargain, however. A lot of sloppy play left quite a few points on the board, so the lead was not as big as it could have been. A few late three-pointers bailed them out a little bit, but a lead of 34-22 felt a little low considering how well the defense played. Timmy Allen led the team with 12 points at halftime. 

Second Half

Utah’s second half woes came back once again. A quick 7-0 run cut the lead to five after just two minutes. This trend had a hiatus earlier this week against Stanford, but it was back in full force tonight. It was all Cal for the next little while, as they continued to put their stamp on the game and took the lead quickly, 46-42. Utah really struggled to score for a good stretch of the second half, which allowed the Golden Bears to get going. Some really disappointing offense by Utah led to the Golden Bears seizing a twelve-point lead with six minutes to go. Despite some late tries to steal the game by Allen, Cal ended up coming back from down 15 to win 72-63. 

“They got a little mojo going. Some guys stepped up and made some plays,” Krystkowiak said. “I thought we got really sloppy. In my mind, I thought this was an opportunity to make it closer to a 20 point lead at halftime.”

Takeaways

This may be the most disappointing loss of the season for Utah. Cal has been dealing with injuries and really struggling so far this year. To go up big that early and give it all away, again, after that has been the main problem this year, is a huge blow for this young team. This was supposed to be an easy win, especially with the momentum gained from the blowout of Stanford just a few days ago. Instead, they came out flat and let the old issues come back to bite them. They will need to show signs of growth, and fast, if they are to have any hope of turning this season around. 

“It’s the turnovers. I think you’ve gotta have some discipline,” Krystkowiak said. “I’m not here to make excuses, this is something that’s a little bit troubling. I’m trying to protect our team, we just played four games in a week.”

“It was far more than just turnovers. A lot of places we can be better,” Allen said. “We can’t lose like that, especially at home… We can’t get complacent and we can’t get comfortable. We’re not good enough to afford it, and it shows.”

“We already know what we need to work on, and that’s what we need to fix,” Krystkowiak said. “Really disappointed. I feel bad for the guys.”

A Look Ahead

Utah now hits the road and will play at Washington State on Thursday, Jan. 21. They are certainly hoping to get some positive momentum going after a crushing loss to Cal.

 

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