MBB: Utah's offensive struggles continue at home
The stage was set for a Pac-12 after dark special.
Utah found itself trailing by 17 with under five minutes to go, before the comeback began. Aided by a 15-5 run, the Utes were down by seven with 1:44 to go, looking as if one of the most improbable comebacks was going to happen.
Unfortunately it didn't.
That was the closest Utah would get before falling 69-58 to visiting UCLA on Thursday night.
"A this point it might be time to shake a few things up," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "We just need to get a little dirty and nasty from time to time. Everybody needs to stay connected and I trust that there'll be some changes. It's not a threat, but something that needs to be evaluated."
Alphonso Plummer shined off the bench for the Utes, scoring a team-high 16 points, including a 3-for-6 showing from beyond the arc. Mikael Jantunen added eight points on 3-for-4 shooting off the bench — pacing Utah to a total 27 points from its reserves and prompting Krystkowiak with some lineup questions.
“Fons showed me something. Miky showed me something,” he said. “We’ve got to get a little dirty and nasty from time to time. I trust there’ll be some changes. It’s not a threat, it’s just something I think we need to evaluate.”
Timmy Allen got hot in the end to finish with 11 points while Brendan Carlson, who was in foul trouble for much of the game, finished with 10 points in just 13 minutes of action.
For the Utes though, their troubles came on the glass, behind the three-point line and at the charity stripe.
They were outrebounded 33-24, shot 3-of-12 from beyond the arc and 13-for-20 from the free throw line. Grabbing a few rebounds, knocking down one or two more shots from deep and hitting the freebies from the free throw line and this is a different game.
It's all about the grind — but just playing more physical and being the team that takes the game to their opponent, rather than the other way around.
“I love all of our guys. We’ve got a lot of high character guys,” Krystkowiak said. “We need to scratch and claw. This isn’t a pity party for anybody, playing or not. We’ve gotta get out there and take on a little different mentality and know we’ve got to grind harder than we were.”
The game was close early, with Carlson scoring eight points to keep the Utes in the game. But he picked up his second foul with 9:51 remaining at Utah trailing 18-15. But that was the closest they would get, as with Carlson out, Utah's offense began completely stagnant and UCLA outscore the Utes 15-6 the rest of the half.
Utah returns to action on Sunday when it hosts USC in what has become a must-win for conference seedings regarding the upcoming Pac-12 tournament. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. MST.