Joel Davidson, UteZone

Utes fall to Butler

Utah came up short in its first big test of the season, falling to a ranked Butler squad

After playing four games against lesser competition, the Runnin’ Utes took a shot on the chin as they faced the 18th ranked Butler Bulldogs Monday night in the Huntsman Center. At times the Utes looked competitive and up to the task, but would ultimately watch the game get more and more out of reach which each and every turnover. Utah suffered its first defeat at the hands of the Bulldogs 68-59, and fall to 4-1 on the season.

First Two Minutes Defined the Game

When you jump into cold water for the first time, your body goes into shock and you lose control of what you are doing until you calm your nerves and adjust to your environment. That is how Utah reacted to the first time they found themselves in a game where opposing players had equal or better talent, were well coached and had confidence that they could win the game. The first three possessions for both Utah and Butler set the table for what would occur over the next two hours. After winning the tip it took Lorenzo Bonam all of 25 seconds to commit the first turnover of the game. Andrew Chrabascz turned the mistake into an easy transition layup.

Fifteen seconds later Bonam would turn the ball over for a second time and turn around to watch Avery Woodsen pull up to drain a three point shot. On Utah’s third possession Bonam successfully got the ball down the court only to watch Jayce Johnson give the ball back to the Bulldogs. Kelan Martin continued the trend of making Utah pay for its mistakes by hitting a mid-range jumper.

Just like that the Bulldogs were up 7-0, scoring all seven points off of the three Utah turnovers. Utah never got a handle on the ball. Over the 40 minutes of the game Utah made 19 field goals, only four of which came by way of an assist. Compared to the those four assists, Utah turned the ball over 18 times and the opportunistic Bulldogs turned those 18 mishaps into 23 points. Bonam, Utah’s senior guard, led the way for Utah with six turnovers to his one assist.

Bonam Keeps Swinging

Despite putting his team into an early hole, Bonam did everything he could to keep Utah within striking distance of Butler. When the newcomers to the team appeared timid and hesitated on offense, Bonam took matter into his own hands. Bonam scored Utah’s first eight points. Sandwiched in between to of his three pointers, Bonam made one of his trademarked left handed layups dicing through traffic in the paint as the shot clock was expiring. 

Just under the eight minute marks of the first half, Bonam finally brought Utah even with Butler at 19 points a piece. Utah was inbounding the ball from underneath their own basket. The pass went to Kuzma at the top of the key, who delivered a quick touch pass to Bonam who was on a direct path to the basket from the three point line, free throw extended. Bonam collided with Nate Fowler and made the layup as well as the free throw following the foul. Just like that the Utes were back into the game.

Utah Goes Cold

As quickly as Utah came back into the game, they would use two stretches of dry spells that would eventually put the game out of reach. Just before the half ended Utah had a two minute and 54 second stretch where they gave themselves no chance to keep up with the Bulldogs. On their seven possessions of that time frame Utah only attempted one shot, a miss, and turned the ball over six times. Butler on the other hand took Utah’s seven empty possessions and used them to go on an 11-0 run, pushing the lead to 31-21.

To start the second half it looked like Utah might have figured a few things out. Utah fought their way back to within four points of the Bulldogs, 37-33. Then Utah let things slip away over the next 3:04. Utah would once again go empty on five straight possessions, one turnover and four consecutive missed shots. Butler took the Utah dry spell and went on a 9-0 run, extending the lead to 13 points and in essence let the Utes know that no matter how hard they would try,  Butler would always have an answer

No Deep Threat

Utah has been spoiled over the last few years to have multiple players who could get hot from three point range and exploit another teams defense. Utah has yet to find a player on this roster who can fill the shoes of Jordan Loveridge, Brandon Taylor or Dakarai Tucker. The Utes shot an abysmal 15%, 3-20 from downtown Monday night. Utah does not have a scholarship player who is shooting better then 40% from deep on the team. The only player who has passed that mark is Jake Connor who is shooting 41.7% on the season. However Connor doesn’t equate much into Utah’s plans given that he didn’t even see the court in this ballgame.

Silver Lining

If you are looking for the good that came from Monday night's game Utah did an outstanding job rebounding the ball offensively. Utah barely edged the Bulldogs in overall boards, 33-31, but Utah was able to grab 13 offensive rebounds.Once Utah found themselves with a second chance at the play they were able to put points on the board. Utah’s 22 second chance points was the only reason why Utah was able to be competitive in a game where they were outshot by 16% and spotted their opponent 23 points off turnovers.

Up Next

Utah will now take a step down in competition as they will face Montana State from the Big Sky Conference Thursday night at 7:00 in the Huntsman Center. Look for Utah to run more offensive sets and try to fine tune things to eliminate the deluge of turnovers.

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