With the Pac-12 lacking the separation it’s had in years past many games are going to go down to the wire, meaning that the “little things” will have a major impact in conference play. That was the case in No. 21 Utah’s trip to Palo Alto to play Stanford, as the Runnin’ Utes’ struggles with turnovers and foul shooting were key factors in their 70-68 overtime loss on The Farm.
Larry Kyrstkowiak’s team shot 6-for-18 from the foul line after halftime and they also committed 19 turnovers against a Stanford defense that isn’t of the high-pressure variety. Add in 17 bench points from Stanford’s Marcus Sheffield to supplement three starters in double figures led by Rosco Allen (17 points), and Utah was unable to close out a game that appeared well within their grasp early in the second half.
Guards Lorenzo Bonam and Brandon Taylor combined to commit just three turnovers, so they can’t be blamed for the turnover issues against Stanford. Most of those problems occurred in the front court, with Kyle Kuzma responsible for four turnovers and Jakob Poeltl three. Poeltl fouled out late in regulation, and the absence of their best interior scoring option hamstrung the Utah offense in overtime.
Yet even with the 19 turnovers Utah still had a chance to close out a game they led by 12 just over four minutes into the second half. But they left points on the board at the foul line, shooting even worse than Stanford (14-for-25) managed to from the charity stripe. In a game littered with mistakes down the stretch and into overtime Stanford simply made fewer mistakes, resulting in a two-point victory.
There isn’t much separation in the Pac-12 this year, and any opportunity to get a win on the road is something teams have to take advantage of. Utah had its chances, but in the end turnovers, foul trouble and the inability to hit free throws did them in.