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Stanford, Calif. • A good 30 minutes after Utah lost a completely winnable road game to Stanford, freshman guard Parker Van Dyke sat fully dressed in the visiting locker room, staring into space, not moving an inch.
These Utes knew they had given another game away, this time a 61-60 defeat to the Cardinal on Saturday afternoon at Maples Pavilion. It was much the same narrative as losses to teams like Oregon and Arizona and Washington State. Continue to battle, have a chance to win late, but falter in the most important moments.
For an entire game, Utah fought a losing rebounding battle, a senior day crowd of 6,167 and a Cardinal team desperate for a win on the last game of the regular season. Yet the Utes took a lead down the stretch, had two chances to steal it on the final possession and couldn't get it done.
"It hurts because we were right there," Utah center Jeremy Olsen said. "We feel like we kind of let one get away from us."
A win would've given the Utes a shot at garnering a bye into next week's Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas. It would've also given Utah a 10-win season in one of the best conferences in the country.
Instead, the defeat only reaffirms the belief that the Utes are a shaky team in the last five minutes of games. The league schedule began with a last-second loss to Oregon at the Huntsman Center. It seems like a cruel circle that the final game in March ended much the same way.
Stanford's Dwight Powell made what turned out to be the game-winning free throw with 36 seconds remaining. Armed with possession and a chance to win, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak called a timeout to set up the final play.
Junior guard Delon Wright was set up with a pick-and-roll at the top of the key. But after initially trying to get to the basket, he got bottled up and Utah turned the ball over. It was a frustrating sequence, if only because the Utes had erased a 54-43 deficit with six minutes remaining to give themselves the opportunity to win.
"We just didn't execute down the stretch," Krystkowiak said. "I would've liked to have seen Delon turn the corner there. Instead, he dribbled back and got caught up in traffic a little bit. We couldn't get a shot off at that point. It's frustrating, but we have to go back and look at the film and see what we could've done a little bit better."
The short answer is rebounding the ball. Once again, Utah found itself hurt in that department, struggling to get to loose balls and missed shots. Indeed, Stanford's first 20 points were the result of Utes turnovers, or second chance points.
That means, the Cardinal had a lot of help in racing to an early 16-4 advantage. But slowly, Utah chipped away. Brandon Taylor was huge in the second half, scoring eight of his 14 points. Jeremy Olsen came off the bench to score 12 points and Wright had 12 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
But Utah surrendered 16 offensive rebounds and 36 points in the paint. With the power numbers of the stat sheet going against the Utes in such a big manner, winning became difficult.
Utah falls to 20-10 on the season, 9-9 in the Pac-12. To even make the NCAA Tournament bubble, the Utes will need a long run through the league tournament next week.
P Utah sees its three-game winning streak snapped.
• The Utes don't get a shot off in the final possession.
• Utah falls to 20-10 overall on the season.