LAS VEGAS — Turnovers haven’t been too much of an issue for the Utah basketball team as the Utes ranked a respectable fifth in the Pac-12 in fewest turnovers with 12.1 per game during the regular season.
However, turnovers were a huge problem for the Utes in Saturday night’s 88-57 loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game at MGM Grand Garden Arena. They surpassed their season average in the first half alone with 13 when the game was decided. By the time the ugly game was over, the Utes had a season-high 20 turnovers, a big reason the Utes lost convincingly to the Ducks for the third time this season.
“We threw a lot of ill-advised passes, we weren’t engaged,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “They got us to put our guard down, and that run before halftime was tough.”
In that run before halftime, the Utes committed 10 of their miscues when the Ducks opened up a 17-point halftime lead after being tied midway through the half.
The turnovers came fast and furious during an especially brutal six-minute span when the Utes committed eight turnovers while scoring just three points, as nearly every Ute player participated in the mayhem.
Lorenzo Bonam threw a poor pass, then Brandon Taylor lost the ball in traffic. Kyle Kuzma threw a lazy pass that was picked off by Oregon’s Jordan Bell and turned into a layup at the other end. The next time down, Brekott Chapman tried to hit Jakob Poeltl too late and his pass was intercepted. Then Poeltl made three straight turnovers on a 3-second call, a poor pass and a traveling violation.
“I can’t say it wasn’t their defense, but I will say that about half of those eight, whether we were throwing it up into the crowd … I don’t think (Oregon) would want to take credit for some of those turnovers because there were some silly ones,” Krystkowiak said. “It’s fundamental basketball — if someone is in the passing lane it's probably not a good idea to pass it.“
Poeltl finished with five of the Ute turnovers, while Taylor and Chapman had four apiece as nine players finished with at least one.
“It was just careless mistakes and not taking care of the ball,” said Taylor. “You've got to take care of the ball if you want to be part of something elite, and we didn’t show an elite performance tonight.”
For the game, the Ducks scored 28 points off turnovers, compared to just nine for the Utes.
NCAAS UP NEXT: When the NCAA brackets are revealed Sunday afternoon, the Utah basketball team is expected to be a No. 3 or No. 4 seed and perhaps be sent to Denver for the first and second rounds.
The Utes have been projected as a No. 3 seed by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and others, but Saturday’s big loss could slide the Utes to a No. 4 seed.
The Utes have been a No. 4 seed three other times since the NCAA Tournament field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985: in 1991, 1995 and 1996.
The only time the Utes were a No. 3 seed was in 1998, which was the year the Utes went to the NCAA championship game, where they were beaten by Kentucky in San Antonio.
DUCKS HAVE UTES’ NUMBER: Before joining the Pac-12, the Utes held an 8-7 edge over Oregon in the all-time series between the two schools, including a 60-58 victory in the 2003 NCAA Tournament in Nashville.
However, since then, the Ducks have dominated, winning 10 of 11 games, including seven straight now, including Saturday’s blowout. Oregon holds a 17-9 series lead with Utah’s only Pac-12 win being a 72-62 victory in 2013.