Saturday, December 22, 2012

A "Disheartening" Loss: Northridge 76 Utah 71

Basketball is a game of emotion. Utah played with aggression and confidence in the first half. Northridge played with aggression and confidence in the second half. When the game was on the line, Northridge had the emotional edge and the momentum. Utah had that "deer in the headlights" kind of look. Utah didn't have a chance.

Nervous teams lose games. Utah had 9 turnovers in the second half. Northridge converted those 9 turnovers to 17 points. In the first half, the Matadors played a zone that Utah was able to spread out with crisp passing, penetration, and unselfish play. In the second half, the Matadors played man-to-man pressure. They also took away penetration by sucking its defense to the middle, and forcing Utah to make outside shots. The young Utes missed some shots and started to tighten up. The same pattern that emerged in losses to Sacramento State and BYU emerged in this game. Utah played a solid first half, but as in the Sac State and BYU games, the young Utes couldn't hold off a determined opponent. When a team tightens up, like Utah did, it starts to miss shots and it turns the ball over. Northridge took advantage. 

In his famous article, Bill Simmons described his "levels of losing." While this was a preseason college basketball game, this had the feel of a "broken axle" game. When the wheels come off, there is no putting them back on. And the wheels came off for Utah tonight. As Bill Simmons says, it is always interesting to see how a team responds to a loss in that situation.

So how will Utah respond? As Coach Krystko stated in the post-game, this was a "disheartening" loss. Utah has a week to think about this one. The Utes play the College of Idaho before starting conference play in Arizona. When Utah loses, it is because it stops playing the aggressor, it tightens up down the stretch, and lets the other team take control. This was a tough, tough loss. We'll see if Utah learned anything from these pre-season losses. If they do, I expect them to represent themselves well in conference play. If not, it could be another long season.

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