But Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak was pretty pleased with the overall shot selection his team got at McKale Center.
“We couldn’t hit an open shot,” he explained after the game. “I’ve never missed more open shots, and when you’re down five, down six trying to get back in the game, I’ll bet we had six straight that were wide open, and at the end of the day, we’re going to have to make those shots.”
“I want our guys to play that way,” he added. “I like a lot of what we do, and we’re not going to try and change it. We just need to knock them down.”
Utah finished the night just 4-of-21 from three-point range, and if a few of those fall, perhaps this game has a different ending.
“We didn’t take bad threes. We weren’t forcing bad threes,” Krystkowiak continued. “I don’t recall any bad threes. We gotta polish it up and get in the gym. Shooting’s a part of this game, but I was really pleased overall with the way we battled.”
“I do know they missed a few open threes,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller stated. “But also part of our gameplan was looking at the percentage they shot from three. You never want to give ‘em a wide open one, but that was something that we were well aware of.”
Coming into the game, Utah was shooting 32.9% from long range. Arizona was hitting those at a 38.4% clip.
Despite the shooting issues, Utah did cut the Arizona lead to three points with six minutes left in the game, but the Wildcats went on a 7-0 run to quickly stretch it back out to ten.
“A lot of teams that aren’t making shots like that would quit defending, but we were fighting it,” coach Krystkowiak added. “It was a real struggle to fight through that four or five point barrier when we hit that dry spell. We could only defend them for so long and that’s when the lead expanded.”
The Utes left Tucson immediately after the game for Phoenix, where they’ll hit the floor on Friday to work on some of their shooting woes before playing ASU on Saturday.
“We just didn’t hit a shot,” added Krystkowiak. “Captain Obvious, I can’t start coaching that up short of getting to Phoenix and putting up a bunch of shots.”
But it’s clear that this was Arizona’s gameplan, and it paid off in multiple ways. It also resulted in Utah taking just four free throws, and they only made two of those.
That ended up being a +12 margin for Arizona in a ten-point win.
“A lot of that comes from rebounding,” the Utah coach said. “But when you look, we had 21 open threes, so I don’t know how you’re going to get fouled on many of those. I’d much rather hit an open three than get one more rebound.”
“We were settling for threes, but I’ll take it.”
That seems like a good strategy... if you’re a better three-point shooting team than what Utah is right now.