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Second-half meltdown results in Runnin' Utes falling to Cal State Northridge

By Tyson Maddy, Contributor | Posted - Dec 22nd, 2012 @ 10:22am

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SALT LAKE CITY — The world didn't come to an end Dec. 21, 2012, but it might as well have for the Runnin' Utes.

Utah bumbled away a 21-point halftime lead, resulting in a loss only fitting for the day predicted thousands of years ago by the Mayans to be the end of humanity's existence.

The Utes outscored Cal State Northridge 48-27 in the first half. They were firing on all cylindars, making the extra pass and crashing the boards. Everything was going their way.

The second half was exactly the opposite.

The Matadors responded with a 49-23 advantage in the second half, pulling ahead with a Josh Greene 3-pointer with 5:20 remaining in the game.

And after grabbing the lead, CSN didn't let go of it.

"It's really disheartening," said Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak. "It is not how you want to go on Christmas break. Momentum is a funny thing and we didn't a do a lot right in the second half."

Sophomore guard Stephen Hicks led Northridge with 19 points and nine rebounds, hitting 8-of-11 shots from the floor. Freshman guard Landon Drew also scored 19 on 8 of 11, while Greene added 13.

The Matadors (9-3) shot 65.5 percent in the second half, improving upon their first-half percentage of 39.3.

"This isn't all about us," Krystkowiak said. "(Northridge) shot over 60 percent and had guys make shots. Everything went to plan in the first half and their backcourt made the plays and baskets when they needed them."

Utah (7-4) had a nine-minute second-half drought in which it didn't convert a single field goal, getting outscored 22-2 during that stretch.

"We have to execute better and put an end to those long droughts," said Krystkowiak. "The mindset is what we have to fight through. We have to get tougher and make shots when they're open."

In the final 13:26 of the game, the Utes managed just three made field goals, each coming from beyond the arc. They shot just 22.2 percent during the second half after hitting 60 percent of their shots in the first half.

"We can't take our foot of the gas," said senior guard Jarred DuBois. "We have to take wins. No one is going to give us a game. We haven't earned that right."

Turnovers were among the largest factors in the Utah collapse. The Utes gave the ball away 15 times, including nine in the second half, leading to 19 points for CSN.

"At the end of the day, it's about turnovers," Krystkowiak said. "We got shots on goal but those turnovers suck the life out of us. When we got looks, we tightened up. The rim was bigger in the first half and we got nervous, but turnovers put us in that spot."

Utah still had a chance with 10.9 seconds, trailing by just three with possession of the ball. But the inbounds pass was nearly stolen, and then DuBois found himself on the floor with the ball — trapped — so he called time out.

The problem was, the Utes didn't have any timeouts remaining, resulting in two technical free throws. Greene sank them both to push the deficit to an insurmountable five points.

Freshman forward Jordan Loveridge led the Utes with a career-high 24 points and nine boards. DuBois scored 17 points with seven assists and five rebounds. Fellow senior Jason Washburn chipped in with 13 points and eight rebounds.

The Utes did manage to outrebound the Matadors (38-27) and accumulate 20 assists on 24 made baskets — but in the end, the shooting slump, the defensive lapses, and the turnovers were too much to prevent the apocalypse occuring within the Jon M. Huntsman Center.

It was the third time this season that the Utes ended up losing a game after giving up a double-digit lead in the second half. They also squandered leads against Sacramento State and at BYU.

"We play not to lose and we have to play to win," DuBois said. "We are looking at the clock and we can't afford to do that. When we went out and took the win in games this year, we earned the result."

Utah will look to shake this one off next weekend against NAIA opponent College of Idaho. After that Friday night matchup, the Utes will open Pac-12 conference play at Arizona State on Jan. 2.

Tyson Maddy has covered the University of Utah football and men's basketball teams as a contributing writer for Sports since 2011. Follow his Utes coverage on twitter @Tyson_Maddy

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