#18 Butler stifled Utah in the Utes’ first true litmus test of the 2016 season, 68-59.
SALT LAKE CITY— No. 18 Butler stifled Utah in the Utes’ first true litmus test of the 2016 season, 68-59. Lorenzo Bonam and Kyle Kuzma headed up the mostly-stagnant Utah (4-1) offense, scoring a combined 38 points.
The Bulldogs (7-0) held Utah to just 30.8% shooting in the first half, and just 3-20 from three-point range for the game. The Utes brought the game within eight points with 1:37 left, but Butler held off the late surge to collect the Big East power’s second win over a Pac-12 team this week.
“We didn’t really give ourself a chance to execute our offense because we turned the ball over,” said head coach Larry Krystkowiak. “I don’t think we played hard enough on offense…Credit goes to Butler. They’re good defensively. But they’re not quite that good.”
The Bulldogs went cold after taking a quick 11-3 lead to start the game, allowing the Utes to storm back and take a brief lead at 21-20. Butler responded with a 10-1 run, and owned a six-point advantage at the intermission. Bonam (15) and Kuzma (9) accounted for nearly all of Utah’s 27 points at halftime.
“I told our team that I don’t have any problem with getting beat,” Krystkowiak said. “But I don’t like to be a team that beats itself, and I kind of had that taste in my mouth at the end of the game like we didn’t really give ourselves a fair chance.”
Despite Butler missing 7 of 12 free throws in the second half, Utah kept shooting themselves in the foot and turning the ball over in critical situations, preventing them from closing the eight-point gap.
“There are a lot of lessons learned. We can’t turn the ball over and expect to win,” said Kuzma. “I think we’ll be alright. It was our first test, and first time playing in front of that many people with a young and inexperienced team.”
“In order for there to be some learning in anything, not just basketball, you gotta have some setbacks, you gotta have a little wakeup call and have some cold water splashed in your face,” Krystkowiak said. “Maybe it validates some of the things we’ve been talking about in practice, to be honest. It’s not like I’m vengeful and ‘I told you so,’ but really that’s how the learning takes place.”
Kuzma finished with a double-double with 21 points and ten rebounds. Bonam finished with 17 points and three rebounds, but turned the ball over a team-high six times.
“We had a couple people with their heads down. I just tried to come in there and say, ‘there are a lot of positives with this loss,” Kuzma said. “If we don’t turn the ball over so much, it’s a close game.’”
The Utes will have a pair of days to practice before facing Montana State on Thursday night at the Huntsman Center. Tipoff for Utah-MSU will be at 7:00 p.m., with pregame coverage starting at 5:00 on ESPN 700.
Larry Krystkowiak Postgame:
Kyle Kuzma Postgame:
Asst. Coach Andy Hill on Utah Sports Radio Network Postgame:
Subscribe to ESPN700's News!
Get the latest sports news, contests and flyaways, and more straight to your inbox with our weekly emails.