SALT LAKE CITY — In a game separated by only a few points, it was three Utah turnovers in the final three minutes of play that allowed Oregon State to pull away for a 75-70 win at the Huntsman Center on Wednesday night.
Utah (10-12, 7-11) trailed by 2 points with just over 2:37 left to play in a tight game. Oregon State (14-11, 10-9) attempted to make it a 4-point game on a Jarod Lucas layup, but Pelle Larsson blocked the shot and it landed in the hands of his teammate Alfonso Plummer, who immediately pushed the tempo to get a shot off in transition on the other end.
But as Plummer approached the basket, he dribbled the ball out of bounds. Turnover.
Oregon State capitalized on that turnover and scored a 3-point play on the other end to take a 5-point lead in a game where no team led by more than 7 points and there had been 19 lead changes.
Utah's Mikael Jantunen eventually made a 3-pointer to again cut Oregon State's lead to 2 points with 1:14 left. But as Utah attempted a comeback, Larsson and Timmy Allen committed back-to-back turnovers to give the Beavers the win.
Both teams committed 15 turnovers in the game, but it was the final three turnovers in the closing minutes by Utah that kept its comeback from becoming a reality. In the end, there were too many critical mistakes.
"Nobody does it on purpose and everybody wants to get better, so we've got to look at them, learn from them and move forward so we can win the next close game," Jantunen said after the game.
And as critical as the turnovers were, it was also Utah's lack of sound defense that allowed Oregon State to get off easy shots and keep the game close. The Beavers made 10 3-pointers and had 12 offensive rebounds that led to 24 second-chance points.
"We made some mistakes," Jantunen said. "We had some really bad plays. We had some good plays on defense; we didn't have enough good plays on defense. We didn't get enough stops, that's probably it. They had too many offensive rebounds and that's — it's hard to win when you give up second-chance points."
Assistant head coach Tommy Connor, who spoke to media after the game instead of head coach Larry Krystkowiak, said the team played well but didn't have the same energy it needed to overcome Oregon State in a close game. He added that the game started out slow, with both teams trying to feel each other out instead of trying to attack.
"A lot of times it's just coming out with great energy and effort and focus," he said. "And tonight we didn't come out the start — now, we picked it up — but they didn't either. It was a weird start to the game. It was a little bit — it was slow.
"We usually are best when we play our best from start to finish — when we come out and we're denying and in passing lanes and generating some offense off defense at the start of the game," Connor added. "I would say that might be one where some games we struggle, we're not capturing the start of the game the way we're capable of and the way we should and the way we know we can, so we've got to get our mindset ready to go to come out to a better start on Saturday."
Utah had four players score in double figures in the loss, with Allen, who played the full 40 minutes, finishing with a team-high 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting, with six assists and five rebounds. Plummer, who had 12 points at the halftime break, added 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
Oregon State was led in scoring by Lucas, who had 16 points despite shooting only 5-of-13 from the field. The Beavers shot 53% from the field and managed 34 points in the paint to outscore the Utes 38-30 in the second half.
Utah closes out the regular season with a matinee game Saturday against the Arizona State Sun Devils at the Huntsman Center. The game tips off at noon and will be broadcast on FS1.