PULLMAN, Wash. — For the third time in four games, the outcome of Utah’s game came down to the final seconds, and once again the Utes couldn’t perform in the clutch.
Against Oregon a week and a half ago, it was a rushed shot at the regulation buzzer and a turnover in overtime that led to a loss. Against Washington Wednesday night, the Utes didn’t run the right play and Delon Wright fired up a 3-pointer from the corner that missed everything.
Against Washington State Sunday, the Utes had the ball down by one with 26 seconds left. They let the clock run down below 10 seconds when Brandon Taylor went down the lane and ... traveled. That gave the ball back to Washington State, which sank two free throws to make it a three-point game.
The Utes got the ball back with 6.8 seconds remaining, but after Delon Wright was fouled, he missed the first free throw and had to miss the second intentionally. A desperation 3-pointer by Taylor missed.
“That smarts for us right now, our inability to finish a game out and make a play,’’ said a clearly frustrated Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “You can’t turn it over for sure at that point. We had another timeout, and if it didn’t work I was ready to call timeout so we’d get another crack at it.’’
“I went to stop and make a pass ... I don’t know ... I thought I kept my pivot foot, but it ended up in a travel," Taylor said.
Even though the Utes haven’t figured out how to close a game, Krystkowiak said it’s more than the final seconds he’s worried about.
“It’s something we’re going to have to address,’’ he said. “We can’t spend all our time trying to figure out how to win a game at the end. We’re breaking down, but there’s plenty of breakdowns throughout the course of 40 minutes that need to be addressed as well.’’
FOUL-LINE BLUES: Sunday’s game turned into a free-throw shooting contest in the second half.
At first it looked like the Utes were going to be the beneficiaries, as the Cougars kept missing free throws. But in the end, it was the Utes who lost the free-throw battle because of costly misses down the stretch.
On the night, neither team shot well — 66.7 percent for Utah and 60.7 percent for the Cougars. However, the Utes missed five of their last eight in the final five minutes and that proved to be the difference.
The Utes were leading 42-40 when Taylor missed the second of two free throws. Then after Princeton Onwas, who ironically is the Utes’ worst foul shooter at 46.2 percent coming into the game, made two, Delon Wright, a 76.3 percent shooter, missed two when it was 44-44.
With 4.0 seconds left and the Utes down three, Wright missed a free throw and then had to miss his second to give the Utes a chance to tie.
On the night Wright was just 6 of 11 from the line.
GAME NOTES: The Utes will play the Cougars again on Feb. 8 in Salt Lake City. ... This is the first year that the two teams have played twice in the same season. In Utah’s first two years in the Pac-12, the Utes and Cougars only played once each season. ... Renan Lenz only played two minutes before leaving with a sprained left ankle late in the first half. ... Marko Kovecevic saw his first Pac-12 action and missed one shot in two minutes. ... The Utes shot 3 for 29 from 3-point range in their last two games. ... Washington State won the rebounding battle 34-32. ... This was the first of three Sunday games the Utes will play this year. They’ll meet Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., on Sunday, Jan. 26 and play Arizona State at home on Sunday, Feb. 23.