UteNation - Takeaways: Utes lose close one to UCLA
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Takeaways: Utes lose close one to UCLA

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After a two week break thanks to the postponement of the Arizona State game followed by Christmas, the Runnin’ Utes were back at it on Thursday night against the UCLA Bruins. After a scorching hot start from Alfonso Plummer, the Bruins clamped down on defense and battled their way to a hard-fought 72-70 victory.


Here are the takeaways from the game:


Plummer and Allen’s play gave them a chance

UCLA is a really good defense team under Mick Cronin. After Plummer went 5-5 shooting overall and 4-4 on threes in the first 4 minutes of the game, the Bruins adjusted and made his night difficult the rest of the way. Once they solved that issue, no other Ute really posed a threat in the first half and the Bruins made their run.

In the first half, Timmy Allen was 1-6 shooting overall and 0-2 from three. He had zero rebounds and was a non-factor on both ends of the floor. All of that changed in the second half, as the Bruins had Plummer figured out and the Utes needed someone else to step up. Allen was their guy. The junior leader went 7-8 shooting overall in the second half and hauled in a game-high six boards. In one stretch, the Bruins had no answer as he finished the night with 18 points. As good as his play was in the closing half, he did have that crucial late possession where he dribbled the ball off his foot.

To be competitive going forward, Plummer and Allen need to bring consistent performances night-in and night-out. It’s something both are delivering on so far, but it’s important for each to put a full game together. We’ll see how they respond with their quick turnaround on Saturday against USC.


Rebounding continues to hurt Utah

First off, yes UCLA is one of the best rebounding teams in the NCAA. There’s no denying that, so let’s dig a little deeper. The Utes are atrocious at rebounding. On most nights they’re going to lose that battle. After Plummer’s hot start, they went into halftime being outrebounded 20-12 and down by nine points. They finished the game only losing the battle by five boards. So why is this a key takeaway and why do I make a big deal of it? Starting center Branden Carlson didn’t haul in a single board and backup center Lahat Thioune totaled one rebound.

There’s no magic fix and that stat between them should be alarming. In five games, Carlsen is averaging 2.8 rebounds as a 7-footer. Against BYU he had eight and the last two games he’s pulled in zero in 29 total minutes. That’s alarming and especially when Krystkowiak used to be known for developing big men.


About the last play, it’s a 10 season trend

No I don’t have the actual numbers, but I’d venture to guess that Utah teams under Krystkowiak have failed on game-deciding plays over 90% of the time. When debating this, it’s important to remember that even Delon Wright looked bad on plenty of those plays.

Krystkowiak can tell everyone what he drew up. He can tell everyone what was expected. He can say they had to roll with a funky lineup. Yes, it’s on Larsson for not even getting a shot off. Drawing up a potential game-winning shot for a guy with three points on the night though, feels like complete lunacy. The Utes had both Timmy Allen and Plummer on the floor. Most coaches would roll with Plummer regardless of the defense, one of the most lethal shooters in college basketball. The players need to execute, but they need to be put in a situation to succeed. It’s obvious Larsson wasn’t ready. There’s really no way to spin it, it was a bad decision to draw up that play. Under Krystkowiak, the Parker Van Dyke UCLA momentum was a rare exception.


Up next

The Utes make the quick trip over to USC. The Trojans are 5-2 on the season and the two teams have one common opponent, BYU. The Trojans thumped the Cougars 79-53 behind double-doubles from Evan and Isaiah Mobley.