Utah Basketball Searching For Answers After Second Straight Loss

Feb 4, 2023, 3:54 PM | Updated: 4:35 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah basketball suffered their second straight loss against Stanford, Thursday night after having a three-game stretch where they looked like they had everything figured out. With post-season play on the line, the Runnin’ Utes will be looking for answers against Cal at home on Sunday afternoon.

Perhaps the biggest piece of the puzzle for the Utes is figuring out what the team is going to look like without Gabe Madsen for an extended period of time and getting comfortable with it.

Make no mistake, head coach Craig Smith isn’t looking for sympathy, it’s all part of the game after all.

Where It Went Wrong Against Stanford

It’s no secret the Cardinal caught the Utes on their heels Thursday night at the Huntsman Center. Utah finished the night shooting 39.1% from the field and 35.3% from the three while Stanford felt like they couldn’t be stopped shooting 53.1% from the field and 55.6% from the three by comparison.

Smith threw no punches about his team’s performance in post-game noting the Utes made way too many uncharacteristic mistakes on defense and were much too hesitant on offense to get a win.

“They are playing well,” Smith said of the Cardinal. “They are a talented team. I think they are a lot better than their record shows and give them credit. They played with great force, and it felt like they capitalized on a lot of our mistakes that we had on the defensive-end. Offensively, the first half especially, I thought we were just very tentative.”

Finding Answers Without Gabe Madsen

Smith says the team didn’t find out for sure the outcome of Madsen’s injury until Wednesday but felt they all had a pretty good idea he likely wouldn’t be available.

Now they are in a place where they need to figure out how to fill in the production his absence will make in the starting five lineup. Lazar Stefanovic appears to be part of that answer and was perhaps one of the lone bright spots in the Utes’ losses at Oregon and against Stanford.

However, there are a lot of little things outside of scoring that Madsen did for the team that don’t necessarily show up on stat sheets and those are the things the Runnin’ Utes need to adjust for the most.

“Gabe has been a very good player for us,” Smith said. “Obviously BC is a guy everyone game plans for and I’d say Gabe is the other guy. He does so many things for our team that helps make everyone better- they game plan for that. They set some screens and they aren’t going to help. That gives every other guy cleaner looks and better opportunities.”

Smith continued that the looks out on the floor for his team have looked and felt a little different because how much responsibility was on Madsen’s plate but said that’s just how the game works. Who will be the “next man up”?

“It is a little different because a lot of things we do go through him,” Smith said. “That’s just part of sports, right? Look at the 49ers and the fourth-string quarterback. It’s just how sports work. You’ve got to be able to figure it out and have enough depth to make up for that.”

Up Next

As the Utes continue to sort themselves out without Madsen, they are set to play host to the Cal Golden Bears on Sunday, February 5 at 4 pm MT. The game can be viewed on ESPNU.

The Runnin’ Utes will have one more home game the following week against Colorado before having to take the show back out on the road.

With any luck they will be back on track before then.

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @BodkinKSLsports

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Utah Basketball Searching For Answers After Second Straight Loss