SALT LAKE CITY – A bad ending to a game signaled a bad ending to a season for Utah’s Runnin’ Utes, whose season came to an end after falling to Boise State, 73-68, in first-round action of the NIT Tuesday evening at the Huntsman Center.
The Broncos (20-11) trailed 61-56 before calling a timeout at the 6:33 mark of the second half and then proceeded to outscore the Utes 17-7 over the final 6:09 of the game. The Utes (20-12) went a stretch of six minutes without a bucket, while the Broncos took advantage of their offensive opportunities at the other end of the floor to take the lead and eventually win the game.
The Utes took a 37-30 lead into halftime after shooting 51.7 percent from the floor. The Broncos shot 44.8 percent, but were 0 for 8 from downtown.
Junior Kyle Kuzma put the Utes up 14-6, but Boise State countered with a 15-6 run to take its first lead of the game with 5:37 left to play in the half. The Broncos would go up 24-22 following a three-point-play from Chandler Hutchison, but Utah managed to close out the final five minutes-plus on a 15-6 run of its own.
Both teams traded buckets to open the second half and Utah would go up by as many as 11 points with 17:39 left to play. But eight Utah turnovers led to 11 Boise State points in the second half.
“Boise State is a good team,” said Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak. “They have been in a little bit of a similar situation that we were, with a lot of new faces and they lost a kid to the draft early. They have done a really good job. They have a lot of weapons. We were good in that basketball game for 32 minutes. It is kind of the story of our season with the turnovers.”
The Broncos would chip away at the 11-point deficit and got back to within a point, down 57-56, before back-to-back buckets from Kuzma and senior Lorenzo Bonam pushed the Utah lead back to 61-56. The Broncos called their timeout and proceeded to go on the game-ending run.
“We just let one slip (away),” said Kuzma. “It felt like we had a good opportunity coming out of the half to open the gates and even in the last six minutes of the game. Boise deserves all the credit. They beat us. They made key plays and buckets down in the stretch. We just couldn’t stop [Hutchinson].
Kuzma led the Utes with a team-high 21 points, while junior David Collette chipped in with 15 points. Collette added a season-high 11 rebounds to record his first-career double-double with the Utes.
Utah shot just 40 percent from the field in the second half to finish with shooting at a clip of 45.8 percent for the game. The Utes were just 9-of-16 (.563) from the charity stripe on the night.
With the win, Boise State moves onto the second round of the tournament and will face Illinois later this week.
• With the loss, Utah and Boise State are now tied 4-4 in the all-time series. It was the first loss to the Broncos at home. Meanwhile, BSU improved to 2-0 against the Utes in the NIT.
• Utah finishes the season at 20-12 overall and 14-4 in games played at the Huntsman Center.
• Boise State outscored the Utes, 44-40, in points in the paint.
• Kuzma scored at least 10 points in the second half in back-to-back games for the second times this season. He finished the game with 21 points, registering double figures for the 17th straight game and 26th time in 29 games.
• Bonam, who played his last game with the Utes, finished with seven points and a team-high four assists.
• Boise State’s Chandler Hutchison registered a game-high 34 points on 14-of-24 shooting from the field and a 5-of-6 effort from the free throw line.
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