The Utes looked poised to make a run at the NCAA tournament after their Washington road sweep and strong performance against Oregon in Salt Lake City. Right when Utah had a wave of momentum, the Bay Area road trip happened. After suffering the double overtime loss at Cal, the Utes came up flat against Stanford and lost 81-75, to be swept on the road trip.
The Utes have now lost all five contest at Maples Pavilion since joining the Pac-12. With the loss the Utes drop to 15-8 (6-5) and drop to 7th place in the Pac 12 standings.
Sloppy First Half
After a double overtime game against Cal, you had to wonder how Utah would be mentally and physically. Would the extra 10 minutes of intense work on tired legs impact the game against the Cardinal?
Utah looked sluggish to start, passes weren’t crisp and shots weren’t falling. Utah missed four of its first five shots while watching Stanford go 3-3 and jump to s quick 7-2 lead. However, Utah didn’t turn the ball over for almost the first six minutes of the game and then were able to make five of their next six shots and regain the lead. Neither team was able to shake the other, despite both teams playing poorly. Utah and Stanford combined for 43.5% shooting, 16 turnovers and 52% free throw shooting. In the first half there were 10 lead changes, Utah lead for nine minutes and Stanford for 8. Ultimately Utah would go to the locker room down, 32-31.
Adding to the theory of Utah having tired legs was their inability to make a jump shot. In the first 20 minutes Utah shot 10-14 inside the paint, but a horrific 2-14 when they stepped outside of the post.
Rawson’s Best Performance
When nothing appeared to be going right for Utah, Tyler Rawson came up big and showed a glimpse of just what the coaches had hoped to receive from him on this team. Early in the second half it appeared as if Stanford was about to run away from Utah, but Rawson, uncharacteristically for this season, calmly hit two consecutive three pointers to keep Utah within reach. Despite coming off the bench, Rawson led Utah with 20 points. He shot 71.4% from the field and the 25% season three point shooter made four of his six three point attempts. Rawson was the only Ute to shoot better than 50% from the foul line (4-6) but he also led Utah with 4 turnovers.
Trailing 51-45 with 12 minutes left, Utah came alive. Rawson sparked things with his second three pointer, Sedrick Barefield quickly followed suit with a three of his own. After a pair of Rawson free throw, Parker Van Dyke let one fly from deep. The riding the wave of momentum, Kyle Kuzma attacked the paint for a layup that completed a 13-3 run and gave the Utes a 58-54 lead. Utah was taking control.
Then Stanford flipped the narrative, where teams would usually fold or begin to force things, Stanford exploded. Behind the efforts of Reid Travis, stanford would make seven of their next 10 shots on way to a 16-4 run. Once the Cardinal established a 70-62 lead, they would never let go.
Player of the Game
No matter what Utah did they had no answer for the 6-foot-8, 245 pound junior, Reid Travis. If they tried a double team, Reid powered through it. If David Collette bodied him up, he knocked him out (literally). Rawson had no chance in the paint and Jayce Johnson spent 38 minutes on the bench. The plan was to force Travis to shoot from 10 feet out because he, statistically, struggles from that distance. After making two jump shots, Utah had no choice but to respect him. Then he just went back to the basket and put on a clinic of post moves. Travis finished the game leading all scorers with 26 points and did so by making 73.3% of his shots. Nineteen of his points came in the second half as Stanford was taking control of the game.
Stats of Concern
Turnovers - By far the biggest flaw to this team is its inability to control the ball. Against Stanford, Utah turned the ball over 17 times. Those 17 turnovers led to 17 points. Utah turned the ball over 36 times in the bay area, Utah is now ranked 196th with 13.6 turnovers per game.
Free Throw Shooting - Utah shot 13-22 from the foul line (59%). The Utes are ranked 214th with 68.4% foul shooting on the year.
Defense - Stanford averages 68 points a game, Utah let them score 13 points above that average. Also Stanford shot 13% better from the field and 19% better from behind the arc than their season averages.With Utah trying to claw back at the end, Stanford made seven of three last 10 shots, including the last five.
The Paint - In the first half Utah made 10-14 shots in the paint and were really effective. In the second half they only made three of their 10 opportunities. Utah has generally been great in the post this year, but performed very poorly in the heat of the game.
With their tournament hopes all but gone, Utah will need to focus on improving each and every game to be ready to make a splash in the Pac-12 Tournament. Their first opportunity to improve will be this upcoming Thursday at the Huntsman Center. Utah will square off against the Washington State Cougars. Last time out Utah beat the Cougars by 41 points. Can Utah regain that level of play? We’ll find out Thursday at 7:00 PM MT.