Bleeding Red: So close, and yet so far for Utes in Pac-12

Utah has come up short without shooting par
The Utes have been close but there’s still no cigar
Lots of lemons, but so far no lemonade
Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades

COMMENTARY — Once upon a time, the Runnin’ Utes were known as the Cardiac Kids, which, at the time, was only a slightly forced reference to the pioneering research in artificial hearts conducted by the University of Utah Medical Center. The current squad can be more aptly referred to as the heartbreak kids.

Utah is now 12-4 overall, and 1-3 in conference play. However, the most maddening aspect of their record is that the four losses have come by a combined nine points for an average margin of defeat of a mere 2.25 points. In other words, the Runnin’ Utes have not lost any game by more than a single bucket — consistently close, but no cigar.

No. 1-ranked Arizona is the only undefeated team left in the Pac-12. The rest of the teams in the conference have at least three losses, with an average margin of defeat per team in those losses of at least eight points or more, with a handful of blowout losses in the mix. Nobody has played as consistently close as Utah. But then nobody has consistently come up as short as Utah either.

The Runnin’ Utes have never had a winning record in conference play at any point in the season ever since they joined the Pac-12. At 1-3 in conference play currently, they are going to be hard-pressed to improve to a winning record in conference play anytime soon.

Similar to their gridiron counterparts, Utah has one of the best defenses in the conference, but also one of the most anemic offenses.

In the Runnin’ Utes’ solo conference win against Oregon State, Utah shot 58 percent from the field, made 12 of 22 tries from the 3-point line, and only turned the ball over 8 times. In their three conference losses, the Runnin’ Utes have shot a combined 36.8 percent from the field, have made only 6 of 48 tries from the 3-point line (less than half of the 3-point shots made in the single game against the Beavers), and have averaged 12 turnovers a game.

This isn’t rocket science, this is a simple lack of offensive output. In fact, it has been somewhat amazing that Utah has been in every single game it has played this year in spite of some extremely poor performances on the offensive side of the ball.

This is a young team, and that youth is really starting to show in conference play. While the Runnin’ Utes have proven they have the talent to play with virtually any team in the conference, they have also consistently struggled to get the job done in crunch time in the final seconds of the game.

The good news for Utah fans is that this team appears to be on the verge of a breakthrough. If the Runnin’ Utes can continue to play tough defense, and somehow figure out how to get the ball in the hoop at the other end of the floor, they could be difficult to beat and would likely string together a number of wins.

Next up for Utah is a Thursday night game against USC at home, followed by another home game against UCLA on Saturday afternoon. The Trojans are 9-7 overall, and have yet to win a conference game. The Bruins are 13-3 overall, and 2-1 in conference play. Neither opponent is known for its defense, so perhaps the Runnin’ Utes can get back on track on offense this week.

Quite frankly, I didn’t expect this squad to be this good this soon, and I expected them to struggle early in conference play. I wouldn’t have been surprised by one or more blow-out losses, but that simply has not been the case. Notwithstanding their offensive woes, this has been a fun team to watch. Utah has given its fans something to cheer about until the final buzzer has sounded in every single game. I’ll take it … but I’d still like more.


Dwayne Vance is a sports columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.


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1 Comment

  • Agnes Avila January 13, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Utes (12-4, 1-3) drop conference road game to Washington State after leading by as many as 12 points.

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