Late game mishaps and missed free throws cost the Runnin Utes in their road opener at Stanford as they fell 70-68 in overtime. Despite a 9 point lead at the half, and four free throw attempts late in the game that would have finished off the Cardinal, Utah couldn't close, wasting another good effort by Jakob Poeltl, despite playing through foul trouble and ultimate fouling out.
First Jordan Loveridge bricked a pair with 18 seconds to go and Utah holding a 2 point lead. Then, with the game tied and under 2 seconds left, Brandon Taylor missed both of his attempts, the second one bouncing around the rim and touching every part but the net before falling to the ground. Utah's top two free throw shooters and two seniors couldn't convert. Then, in overtime, and down 2 and with 7 seconds left, Lorenzo Bonam's drive to the basket resulted in a trip, a fall, a travel, and a turnover. Game over.
It's been an issue the last few seasons as Utah's inability to make plays down the stretch has cost them games time amd time again. Yes, there are times when the Utes have been the closers (see Duke), but the norm has become the missed opportunities late in games, and it needs to change if this team wants to advance any further than the Sweet 16.
The other issue? Turnovers. Utah had 19. Stanford had 8. in their last 3 games against real teams (Stanford, Duke, Wichita State), Utah had turned it over 19 times in each game. Utah is a massive -41 in turnovers in those three matchups. That's a ridiculous numbers. The loss of Delon Wright has taken a consistent, under-control, ball handler out of Utah's offense, and while Lorenzo Bonam is more explosive and a better shooter than Wright, he's not the floor general that kept everything under control like Wright did.
So now Utah enters a matchup on Sunday against arguably the most talented team in the league in Cal. They're long, athletic, and just beat up a solid Colorado team. If the Utes don't get out of their own way, Cal will push them to 0-2 in conference, and put their regular season title hopes in jeopardy, just one week into the year.