SALT LAKE CITY — Coming off a frustrating loss to Oregon Thursday, Utah looked to bounce back against a visiting Oregon State program tied with Utah for third in the conference standings.
But a poor first-half shooting performance by the Utes was enough to sink the team Saturday in an 81-72 loss to the Beavers.
Utah (11-10, 5-4) cut Oregon State’s double-digit lead to 4 points with just under two minutes left to play, but the Beavers answered back with a clutch 3-pointer to hold off the Utes for the eventual win. Oregon State (14-7, 6-3) had an answer for every Utah attempt behind Tres Tinkle’s 31 points, six rebounds and four assists.
“We need to be tougher,” Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “We have a couple individuals that are tough, but a collective toughness to secure rebounds and run, and I just thought we weren’t ready coming out of the gates making plays defensively. And again, when you don’t see the ball going in, it kind of sets you back on the defensive end.”
The Utes outscored the Beavers 40-35 in the second half, but it wouldn’t be enough to erase the first-half scoring woes, where Utah shot a poor 38 percent from the field in the half.
Utah was led in scoring by freshman Timmy Allen, who finished with 24 points and six rebounds. Senior Sedrick Barefield added 19 points, four assists and three rebounds in the loss.
The two teams combined for 38 free throws in a disjointed first half of play that saw Utah go more than nine minutes without scoring a field goal. It took Utah nearly 11 minutes of play to score in double figures when Allen managed a layup that ended Utah’s streak of 11-straight missed field goals.
Utah would go on to trade baskets with Oregon State for the remainder of the half and cut the Beavers’ lead to 6 points before turnovers started piling up. The Beavers would force 10 first-half turnovers to take a 14-point lead into the break — their largest lead of the half.
The second half was better for Utah as they found a rhythm on the offensive end of the floor, but still allowed the Beavers to shoot 48 percent from the field. Tinkle, who went for 16 points in the second half, couldn’t be contained and hit multiple momentum-shifting buckets to keep Utah from gaining on the Beavers’ lead.
“Tres Tinkle, I have known him since he was a little kid in diapers, he stepped up with that three from about 28-30 feet away when the building was alive when we were down four at the time,” Krystkowiak said. “And that is a moment of truth time and I don’t know how we guard it much better. That’s an example of some senior leadership skill level and they beat us. They made plays when they needed to.”
The Utes would shoot 43 percent from the field as Oregon State’s man-to-man defense prevented Utah from getting easy looks behind the 3-point line, its area of strength this season. Even layups came hard for the Utes, who saw several attempts roll out throughout the game.
Krystkowiak said it took his team some time to adjust to Oregon State playing them in a man defense instead of a zone. Every other team in the Pac-12 this season has played Utah in a zone, which freed up the Utes to catch open looks behind the 3-point line.
The Utes return to action Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 9 p.m. MST against the USC Trojans at the Galen Center in Los Angeles, California.