NCAA Tournament: Utah falls to Gonzaga 82-59 in Round of 32

Untitled Emily Juchau

A lackluster performance from the Utes resulted in an end to their 2015-2016 season as they dropped their final game in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to the Gonzaga Bulldogs 82-59 in the Pepsi Center.

Untitled2Jakob Poeltl, who finished with five points and four rebounds, was outshone by Gonzaga’s Domantas Sabonis, who ended the night with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Utah’s only two players to finish scoring in double-digits were Kyle Kuzma, with 15 points as he was 3-of-4 from three-point range, and Lorenzo Bonam, with 12. Overall, the Utes shot 42.3 percent from the floor while Gonzaga shot 55.7 percent.

Head coach Larry Krystkowiak does not know what he would change in his game plan, but he gives the Bulldogs a lot of credit for the type of energy they brought to the court.

“The best team won tonight,” Krystkowiak said. “Without a doubt, Gonzaga was the better team tonight. A lot of credit goes to them. We wish them well representing the West as they go to Chicago.”

Utah opened up the game a bit sloppy, turning the ball over on its first possession, and was whistled for an offensive foul. Kuzma got going early and had the Utes’ first five points and a block, denying Gonzaga what looked like an easy layup. However, through about five minutes of play the Utes found themselves down 12-7.

Gonzaga maintained this lead for a couple more minutes, and during that stretch Kuzma made his second three-pointer of the night. Then Kyle Wiltjer made his own three, and the Bulldogs extended their lead to nine points, leading 24-15 with 11:30 left in the half.

Untitled4The Utes spurred off a 7-0 run to bring themselves within a basket, but Gonzaga responded with a 5-0 run to go back on top by seven.

Utah was whistled for a lot of fouls, and Poeltl had to take a seat on the bench after receiving his second. With Poeltl off the court, Gonzaga held a steady handle on the game and had an 11-point lead with four minutes left.

At the end of the half Gonzaga led 44-29. Utah had racked up nine turnovers by that point, giving the Bulldogs 15 points because of this.

“They just hit shots,” Kuzma said. “You know, they came out on fire. They shot the blood out of the ball really.”

Opening up the second half, Utah could not get anything to fall, and Gonzaga worked its way to a 22-point lead. Whether it was off of Utah’s turnovers or second chance opportunities, the Zags were having their way. Tucker ended a near-four-minute scoring drought when he made a three-pointer, then Brandon Taylor hit a three-pointer to make the score 55-37 with 13:25 left to play.

Untitled3Utah struggled finding the bottom the net, and Gonzaga was soon up 64-39. Taylor was trying his best to lead the team and kept attacking the paint. Isaiah Wright drained a three-pointer to to cut the lead to 20 points, but it was to no avail as Utah fouled on the other end of court, resulting in a three-point play for the Zags.

Gonzaga dominated the rest of the game, and with under two minutes left to play in the game, Krystkowiak took most of the starters out.

This isn’t how the Utes envisioned their season ending, and the locker room was a tough place for every player Saturday night.

“Disappointing, obviously,” Krystkowiak said. “You know, as I shared with our basketball team, there’s not many places you can be placed in life where you get to ride the emotional rollercoaster like we did. I know this isn’t the way we wanted to finish our season.”

k.brenneisen@dailyutahchronicle.com

@kbrenneisen