HONOLULU, Hawaii — A valiant second-half effort by the basketball Utes couldn’t make up for a game filled with untimely mistakes and stints of sloppy play in their 89-86 loss to the San Francisco Dons in the opening round of the 2016 Diamond Head Classic on Thursday.
After being down by as many as 15 points in the second half, the Utes showed resilience and made it a one-position game late largely in part to the offensive spark provided by heady point guard Sedrick Barefield.
The junior finished his second official game in the red and white with a career-high 35 points. Coach Larry Krystkowiak was quick to acknowledge the positives as well as the negatives of Barefield’s overall play, specifically his zero assists and six turnovers.
“It’s about consistency and he knows that. He is going to have to get better defensively but he’s a dynamic guard," Krystkowiak said. "He has a lot of firepower. It’s not a line he should be proud of.”
With the Utes down 88-86, a shot clock violation with 39 seconds provided hope for the Utes. But Barefield was called for an offensive foul with four seconds left that ended any hopes of a Utah comeback. San Francisco’s Frankie Ferrari made 1 of 2 free throws after an ensuing Utah foul, leaving just one second on the clock.
“It was a tough bang, bang play. I didn't see it as a charge," Krystkowiak said. “I’m proud of our guys, we could have probably cashed it in. We just have to clean it up.”
Krystkowiak had the luxury of a full compliment of players for a total of one game and one play when Kyle Kuzma tweaked his right ankle on the first play of the night.
Aggressive drives to the hoop paid dividends in the first half as David Collette, who played just 17 minutes against Prairie View A&M, clocked in as many minutes in the first half. The junior’s constant activity and all-around play was one of the bright spots as the Utes went into the locker room down 38-35 at intermission.
Collette and Barefield combined for 22 points in the first half.
Back to back 3-pointers by San Francisco guard Ronnie Boyce with 13 minutes to play put the disjointed Utes in a 63-48 hole as the Dons, Boyce specifically, came guns blazing to the tune of 9 of 10 shooting to start the second half.
The Dons, who averaged 11 3-point makes per contest, set a tournament record of 16 makes from distance at a resounding 57 percent clip. Every one of them seemed to come at just the wrong time as far as the Utes were concerned.
The loss of Kuzma as a formidable second option and playmaker in the post was evident. Being without the poise of the 6-foot-9 rock of consistency may have hurt even more.
Collette poured in 18 points in 34 minutes of play before fouling out. He was ineffective in the second stanza while going scoreless for the first 11 minutes of the second half.
“This is Dave’s second game back, so he’s not in great game condition. We put the saddle on him pretty good and wore him out a little bit,” Krystkowiak said.
The final outcome was a result of numerous missteps, 21 turnovers and inconsistencies that plagued the team as a whole, not so much the final play, Krystkowiak noted.
“Our issues were the inability to defend the 3-point line. They hit some tough shots. They earned a lot their makes. They are well-coached and pretty well-oiled machine,” the Utah coach said.
The Utes came into the game as one of the top rebounding teams in the country yet were out rebounded 29-24 by the undersized Dons (9-2).
Utah (7-3) faces the loser of the Hawaii and Illinois State affair in the tournament's consolation bracket. Tipoff is set for Friday at 10:30 p.m. MST.