Utah Utes basketball: U. blows chance to upset Sooners

first_img Related Slow start doesn’t sink Sooner star SALT LAKE CITY — Despite falling behind by 10 points early, despite later blowing an 11-point lead, despite going 0-for-14 from 3-point range in the second half and despite missing six free throws in the final minutes of regulation, the Utah basketball team had a great chance to defeat a talented Oklahoma team Saturday afternoon.After tying the game in the final seconds, the Utes led by four points in overtime. In the end however, the Utes couldn’t hang on and lost to the Sooners 78-73 before a spirited crowd at the Huntsman Center.Coming off a 16-point win over Michigan three days earlier, the Utes were hoping for their second victory of the week over a prominent team. They looked to be on their way after taking a quick lead in the overtime.However, preseason all-American Willie Warren, who scored a game-high 27 points, came up big with a couple of big shots in overtime to break the hearts of the Utes, who fell to 5-5.Ute coach Jim Boylen took the loss especially hard. After entering the interview room, he stared at the floor for a good 45 seconds before saying, “Disappointing loss … disappointing loss … it’s a tough one to swallow.”Boylen said the Utes played good enough defense to win, holding the Sooners to 34 percent shooting, but their inability to sink open 3-pointers and even more open free throws doomed their upset chances.The Utes shot 50 percent from 3-point range in the first half when they took a 42-36 lead. But their long-range shooting was horrific in the second half when they missed 10 in regulation and four in OT. And between the 7:58 mark and the 2:15 mark the Utes missed six of 11 free throw tries — four by Brown — which prevented them from taking the lead.”My team battled,” said Boylen. “But we missed too many free throws. You’ve got to make your free throws in big games, and you’ve got to make your open shots.”After fighting back from a five-point deficit with a little over two minutes left in regulation, the Utes got a dunk from David Foster with 18 seconds left to cut the lead to one. They then tied it on a spectacular reverse layup by Carlon Brown with 7.2 seconds left. Warren missed his layup at the buzzer with Foster hovering over him, and it was off to overtime.With new life, the Utes seemed to take control at the start of the extra period.Jay Watkins scored on an inside shot and made two free throws after a Luka Drca steal, and with 3:57 left, the Utes were looking good. But Warren scored inside and, after Drca missed an ill-advised long 3-pointer, Warren sank an NBA-length three with 1:55 left to put the Sooners up for good. Drca missed another long three, and Tony Crocker sank a pair of free throws to make it 74-71.Drca’s two free throws cut the lead to one with 30.3 seconds left, and freshman Tommy Mason-Griffin made two at the other end with 28 seconds left.The Utes had another chance to tie, but Brown was stripped in the lane by Mason-Griffin and the Sooners put it away with a couple more free throws.”They make a guarded three at the end, and we miss two wide open threes,” said Boylen of the difference in overtime.The Ute coach said he wasn’t disappointed in Drca’s 3-point try that came with 3:22 left and the Utes leading by two — with 20 seconds still on the shot clock.”He was wide open — you’ve got to make those,” he said.But even Drca admitted it wasn’t a great shot.”When we were up, we took bad shots, including me,” he said. “I took that one three that I shouldn’t have. But that’s the game, and we’ve got to grow up as a team.”The Utes might have lost the game at the start of the second half when the Sooners kept driving to the hoop and sent Foster to the bench with his third and fourth fouls in the first 1:16, while the Utes settled for 3-pointers.”We were soft going to the rim,” said Boylen. “We kept telling our guys to drive the ball. We’ve got to learn to do that. (The officials) call it on one hand, they got to call it on the other, but we’ve got to drive the ball.”The six-point halftime lead turned into a seven-point deficit at 57-50 midway through the half before the Utes made their late rally.”I tell my guys, ‘You need to learn to play in the street without getting run over,’ ” Boylen said. “And I thought we made a couple of bad decisions where we might have got run over a little bit. It’s a hard thing. We’re going to keep playing in the street and we are going to learn and we are going to grow.”Warren’s 27 points came despite going 7-for-24, while Brown led Utah with 16 despite going 4 for 15. Drca and Watkins each added 13, while Foster had seven points, seven rebounds and six blocked shots.The Utes will have a week off before their next game, Saturday night at home against Illinois State.e-mail: sor@desnews.comlast_img

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