Gonzaga’s Sabonis gets best of Utah’s Poeltl
DENVER (AP) — Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak renewed his call for the NCAA to adopt the six-foul limit like the pros have after seeing his 7-footer spend almost as much time on the bench as he did on the basketball court.
Jakob Poeltl will get the extra cushion soon if he declares for the NBA draft, as many expect.
If he does, his college career and its five-foul limit came screeching to an unexpected halt Saturday night in Denver when his much-anticipated matchup with fellow sophomore Domantas Sabonis fizzled into as big a mismatch as Utah-Gonzaga itself.
The Bulldogs, looking nothing like an 11 seed, rolled over the third-seeded Utes on Saturday night, 82-59 behind 22 points from Eric McClellan and a 19-point, 10-rebound effort from Sabonis.
The son of former NBA great Arvydas Sabonis gave up an inch in height to Poeltl — but absolutely nothing else.
Poeltl finished with five points and four rebounds. He got in foul trouble early — drawing his first when Sabonis spun to the baseline and left Poeltl grabbing to prevent the dunk.
“I’m not going to make excuses for anything that took place. But I know Jakob tweaked his ankle pretty good,” Krystkowiak said. “Sabonis got the best of Jakob in this situation. ... I think Sabonis got it going a little bit with offensive rebounding. When our bigs came to help, we didn’t do a good job of boxing him out.”
That said, “I think they both got pretty good futures,” Krystkowiak suggested.
Sabonis is on to the Sweet 16.
Poeltl, well, he might be back in Salt Lake City or he could be a lottery pick.
“It’s going to be tough. Right now I really don’t want to leave but I’m going to look at this decision I have to make over the next couple of weeks, days, whatever,” Poeltl said.
At least in the NBA, he’d get six fouls to work with instead of five.
It was still a game at 31-25 when Poeltl picked up his second foul with 6:38 left in the half and took a seat. It was a runaway by the time he returned for the start of the second half with the Utes in trouble trailing 44-29.
Krystkowiak said he never considered putting Poeltl back in with two fouls before the break. But he used the question at the post-game podium to get into one of his pet peeves: the five-foul limit in college hoops.
Fans, players, coaches, heck even officials would like six, he suggested.
“I think it would make the job easier for officials to actually call it when there’s fouls,” he said. “What other sport do you put some of the top players on the bench at a time like this?”
“It’s not crying over spilled milk,” he said, adding he wouldn’t want to see Sabonis get into foul trouble, either. “I’ve been an advocate of saying there should be six fouls in college basketball all along. It’s not like an egregious things are taking place. I can see a flagrant foul, maybe you remove somebody. But with bang-bang plays, it’s just unfortunate.”
On Utah’s first possession of the second half, Poeltl posted up and tried the hook. Sabonis, who had a block and two steals to go with his 22nd double-double of the season, redirected it and the ball never got to the glass.
He blocked Poeltl’s only other shot of the night, about 10 minutes later when it was such a runaway the only drama left was when Mark Few would give his eight-man rotation a break and let some of the walk-ons and others get in on the rout.
That came with 1:39 left, when Krystkowiak also emptied his bench and took out Poeltl, who might have played his last game for the Utes, who were ranked 13th and finished 27-9.
For sure seniors Brandon Taylor, Jordan Loveridge and Dakarai Tucker did.
Taylor cried through the postgame news conference, as did sophomore Kyle Kuzma, who led the Utes with 15 points.
“I don’t think any of us pictured it like this,” Taylor said, lamenting he won’t play with Kuzma or for Krystkowiak again.
“Other than that, we’ve had a hell of a year.”
Gonzaga: Josh Perkins had 10 for the Zags. ... Gonzaga outrebounded Utah 34-24.
Utah: Kyle Kuzma led the Utes with 15 points and Lorenzo Bonam added 12.
Gonzaga: Sweet 16 against Middle Tennessee or Syracuse
Utah: Season’s over.
AP College Basketball site: http://collegebasketball.ap.org
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