Men’s Basketball: Missed free throws, foul trouble dooms Runnin’ Utes in Pac-12 opener

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After blowing a 12-point second-half lead over Stanford in Palo Alto, the No. 21 Runnin’ Utes suffered a 70-68 overtime loss to the Cardinal to open up Pac-12 play on Friday night. While the loss in itself was disappointing for Utah, the way it lost the game is the most frustrating.

The Utes could have won the game in regulation after both Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor were sent to the free-throw line in the final minute of the game. But the senior leaders both missed their two late free-throw attempts, coming up empty-handed and eventually sending the game into the extra period.

In overtime, the team missed Jakob Poeltl’s post presence, as he was on the bench after fouling out late in the second half. Loveridge, again, missed a couple of free throws as the Utes did not have enough in them to get the win.

vsBYU018The team finished 11-of-24 from the free-throw line and was 45.6 percent from the floor. Utah failed to take care of the basketball as much as it would have liked and turned the ball over 19 times.

Utah’s top scorers included Poeltl, who finished with 16 points but just three rebounds, Lorenzo Bonam, with 15 points to go with his five assists, and Kyle Kuzma, chipping in with 14 points of his own.

Things were pretty even throughout the opening minutes, with each team answering the other’s moves. Utah held a four-point lead midway through the first half and built on this after a couple of baskets in the paint from Poeltl and Bonam. Stanford was held scoreless for nearly seven minutes at one point in the frame until the Cardinal drained a three-pointer to end the streak.

With under four minutes left to go until halftime, Loveridge hit a three-pointer to give the Utes an edge, and at the half the Utes were leading 30-21.

After scoring zero points in the first, Taylor came out of the locker rooms firing to start the second half, helping Utah build onto its lead by scoring eight points in the first five minutes. Taylor’s run included a pair of three-pointers to extend the Utah lead to a dozen points.

Utah’s big men started to get in foul trouble, however, and with about 13 minutes left in the game Kuzma, Loveridge, Poeltl and Brekkott Chapman each had three fouls. Stanford went on a 12-3 run to cut Utah’s lead in half and was soon only down by two points.

Shortly after, Poeltl committed his fourth personal foul and Stanford went to the line to tie the game at 45 all. On Stanford’s next offensive possession, Chapman got called for his fourth foul as well.

With Utah leading 63-59, Poeltl fouled out with 39.6 seconds left to play, and Stanford soon made it a two-point game. When the Utes were inbounding the ball they threw it away and gave the Cardinal an opportunity to tie it up at 63. Stanford was unable to score and fouled Loveridge, who ended up missing both free throws.

On the other end of the court, Utah missed Poeltl’s presence as Stanford made a shot in the paint to tie the game at 63. With the clock winding down, Taylor started to drive to the basket and was fouled with 1.8 seconds left.

To Utah’s demise, he also missed both of his attempts and the game went into overtime.

Loveridge drained a three-pointer to open the overtime period, but Chapman soon fouled out on the other end of the court. A dunk from the Cardinal gave them a one-point lead, and Utah could have retaken the lead with Loveridge at the line, but again, he missed both.

Stanford was leading 70-68 with seven seconds left on the clock, and Utah had possession, but Bonam misstepped and ended up traveling. A last-second heave proved worthless as the Cardinal started the new year off with the win over the Runnin’ Utes.