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January 17, 2013

Utes take troubling turn

After a series of big games, the Utes suffered what could have been a let-down game against a poor to mediocre USC team. While never a valid excuse for a loss, it's a feasible one that can sometimes plague a young team.

That's what most assumed, or maybe hoped for. Either way, it made Wednesday's Washington State contest all the more important.

Despite mid-season meetings deemed as "positive" and helpful, Utah dropped the contest 75-65, after being down by as much as 17 points and never got closer than four points at one point late in the first half.

Washington State got off to a quick start, hitting its first four shots of the game, which happened to be from long distance. With an early 12 point jump, the Cougars never looked back, and Utah never, at any point, held a lead in the game.

Utah had few bright spots in the game, particularly troubling after head coach Larry Krystkowiak made a point of simplifying his offense for a team who has struggled offensively of late.

Freshmen Brandon Taylor and Justin Seymour stepped up Wednesday, but to no avail. Taylor led the Utes with 13 points and three rebounds, while Seymour added 11 points and five rebounds. While both played key minutes for the Utes, each has done it sporadically in the past, but not with any consistency.

To the man, consistency, or a lack of it, applies to every Ute on the roster. While nearly every member of the team has shown an ability to score and put up impressive numbers, not one has shown an ability to do it every game.

So while flashes of the future are nice, it's hard to find much encouragement in the sporadic performances, especially as when a player or two emerges, it typically means another one or two faded that same night.

Utah's biggest issue Wednesday night was its 17 turnovers, and the 28 points Wazzu scored off of them. Turnovers had been one of the biggest problems for Utah earlier in the season, but had seemingly been resolved before Wednesday's reappearance.

Along with sustained inconsistency, Utah has been putting out fires through the course of games, only to have other issues pop up in their stead. So much so that the phrase "putting out fires" was a commonality for Krystkowiak throughout the fall.

With turnovers an issue, Utah's box score didn't reveal many telling revelations. The Runnin' Utes shot 23-50 (46%), 8-17 (43.1%) from three-point range and 11-13 (84.6%) from the free throw line. Utah out-rebounded Washington State 29-26, but held a larger margin through most of the contest, revealing that down the stretch, the Cougars asserted themselves on the glass.

Utah also had 15 assists, nine steals, 35 bench points and 28 points in the paint. With a respectable line save for the turnovers, the only other problem was that Washington State's was better.

The Cougars shot 24-48 (50%) from the field and a scorching 11-20 (55%) from long distance and got to the line twice as much as did Utah, hitting 16-24 from the charity stripe.

Washington State had five scorers in double figures, led by guard Mike Ladd, who had 22 points on 7-10 shooting, including 5-8 from three-point range. After hanging its hat on defense through 15 games, Utah hasn't displayed the same defensive effort or intensity in each of its two losses, another troubling development for Krystkowiak and the Utes.

With the loss, Utah drops to 0-5 in Pac-12 play, and falls below .500 for an overall record of 8-9, losing its last two contests by a combined 27 points points, after losing three prior by a combined eight points.


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