Arizona basketball: Utah's near misses 'sting'

Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, organizing his players for a final push against Arizona, says: "The rim, I think, will open up for us" in the future.


Meet the anti-Wildcats.

Mere feet from where the UA celebrated yet another death-defying win in their perfect season Saturday, Utah felt that old familiar feeling.

Three days after the Utes missed four shots in the final 27 seconds of overtime and lost at Arizona State, Jarred DuBois missed two three-point attempts in the final seven seconds - one would have taken the lead, and the other would have tied it at the buzzer - in Utah's 60-57 loss at McKale Center.

The pain was "completely the same," coach Larry Krystkowiak bemoaned with a grimace.

"It's extremely frustrating, especially when you come so close," said forward Jason Washburn, who had 17 points and 11 rebounds.

"People ask you, 'Which one's the harder loss: the close ones or the big ones?' That's a hard question to answer, because it just depends on the day, it depends on how your team's played.

"And when your team plays well enough to win on the road in a stadium where all the fans are against you, the No. 3 team in the country, and you get that close and it's taken away from you, I don't have any words to describe it."

Here's one word: familiar.

Utah (8-6, 0-2) has lost three other games this season decided by three or fewer points:

• Down one in the final 27 seconds of overtime Wednesday in Tempe, Utah missed four shots: a blocked DuBois layup and three putbacks by Jordan Loveridge. ASU won 55-54.

• At BYU on Dec. 8, Utah tied the game with 2:57 to play but failed to score again and lost by three.

• At Sacramento State on Nov. 16, Utah led by one with 1:39 to go, and allowed the Hornets to score the final four points.

"A loss is a loss," Washburn said. "They sting deep inside.

"No matter what the circumstance is, no matter if you should have won or not, losing hurts."

The Utes never led Saturday, taking their best swings at the UA in the final six minutes.

A Washburn jumper pulled Utah within one with 5:33 left, but Solomon Hill countered with a three-pointer to put UA back up by four.

The Utes got within one again with 1:07 to play, after Cedric Martin sank a deep three-pointer. Utah got a stop, and then DuBois missed a three-point attempt with seven seconds left.

After Mark Lyons made two free throws to put UA up three, DuBois missed another three, as time expired, that would have tied it.

"My nerves will get it over it, I guess," Washburn said. "You're sitting there with less than a minute to go, you're only down one, all types of thoughts are running through your head: 'We can win it. We can do it.'

"And then when it's pulled away from you, it's like, I don't got words to describe the feeling."

Krystkowiak had a two-word message for his team: "Make shots."

"That's how you catch up," he said. "It's not as complicated, sometimes, as people wanna make it.

"The game comes down to outscoring the other team."

There's some silver lining to the Utes' close losses: They were on the road, as decided underdogs.

"If anyone would have said we would have been in this at the very end and with a shot to win it, I don't think anyone woulda believed that," Washburn said. "And the fact that we hopefully opened some people's eyes."

The coach described a "fine line" of learning from the experience without being demoralized.

"Maybe some other teams aren't in some nail-biters," Krystkowiak said. "And when it comes time to play one of those teams, hopefully we can respond.…

"I don't fear our guys losing confidence, because we know we're doing a lot of things right.

"The rim, I think, will open up for us, and we'll start having a different result."

That's the Utes' hope.

"We're right there," Loveridge said. "We're bound to have some go our way."