Utah Had Their Chances To Win In Triple Overtime Thriller With No. 8 Arizona

Feb 9, 2024, 12:05 AM | Updated: Feb 10, 2024, 2:28 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – The Runnin’ Utes played an overall impressive game against the No. 8 Arizona Wildcats but couldn’t come up with the plays to win down the stretch in triple overtime.

It was a game for the ages with a full and engaged Huntsman Center crowd cheering Utah basketball on through a 41-25 deficit at halftime that morphed into a 76-76 tie at the end of regulation.

That of course evolved into an 81-81 tie at the end of the first overtime and then a 91-91 tied at the end of the second overtime. Unfortunately for the Utes however, their luck ran out in the third overtime with the Wildcats pulling away 105-99.

Craig Smith Gives His Take On Utah’s Triple Overtime Loss

No one can say the effort wasn’t there for the Utes on Thursday night. Even with the slow start and deficit during the first quarter Utah never gave up and dug themselves out of a pretty tough hole to get out of.

“Really proud of how we fought back,” head coach Craig Smith said during postgame. “That first half wasn’t- I thought we had a great start to the game, not so good in the middle area of that first half- mid to late. I just felt like we were disjointed on offense, and I thought that really affected our defense where we gave up some easy opportunities to them [Arizona] in transition and on the offensive boards. At halftime we really challenged our guys down 16- that’s a hard spot to be in against a team of this caliber. Credit to our guys. We just kept fighting, and fighting, and fighting.”

Despite that fight, however, the Runnin’ Utes weren’t quite able to pull off the upset, though they certainly had their chances. While it’s safe to say coach Smith is proud of the “no quit” effort his guys gave, it still doesn’t change the sting in coming up short.

“Super disappointed we didn’t find a way to win there,” Smith said. “We had our chances to make some plays and we just didn’t make enough of them. Credit to [Arizona] they made a couple more than us. We had our moments there- we had that big run- I don’t know how many shots we just missed that were point blank shots at the rim while we made that run. Then we had some chances in the overtimes.”

Missed Free Throws Reared Its Ugly Head Again For Utah Basketball

Perhaps the biggest missed opportunity for the Runnin’ Utes in their Thursday showdown with Arizona were the free throws.

In the 2023-24 season Utah has not been a team that typically gets fouled and sent to the line, so those chances when they do happen are precious. Unfortunately, the Utes have had a tough time with those rare opportunities with Thursday night’s 10-21 showing from the line being no exception.

“In a game like that, when you play in a tight game like that against a really good team- we have to be able to seize the moment,” Smith said. “There are so many things that it can come down to. Certainly, free throw shooting is a really disappointing thing. It started right at the beginning and then when we were teetering on that position where we could have gotten ahead when it was 61-60- we had multiple possessions there where we really had the chance to get over the top and really seize some momentum. We missed a couple of put-backs, clean shots, wide open looks that just didn’t go in. That happens sometimes.”

Utah Needs To Shake Emotional Loss Ahead Of Hosting Arizona State

There is no doubt going toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the country is exhausting physically, mentally, and emotionally. Especially when you end up being thisclose to pulling off the upset to keep your undefeated home win streak alive.

When that shatters and doesn’t fall in your favor it can be tough to get over. Especially with how quick the turnaround is in basketball. However, the Utes will have to if they want to keep themselves involved in postseason talk and the task won’t be easy against an ASU team that has always had their number.

“This was a really emotional game,” Smith said. “Now, who-boy. You have to take on the challenge in a big-time way against a team that quite frankly we’ve struggled with here the last couple of years. We’ve always had tight games with Arizona State.”

The Utes host the Sun Devils on Saturday, February 10. Tipoff is set for 6:00 pm MT and can be viewed on ESPN2.

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com 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 XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Utah Had Their Chances To Win In Triple Overtime Thriller With No. 8 Arizona