Turnovers and poor defensive rebounding doom Utes in Pullman, Washington, but star center Branden Carlson returned after a five-game absence due to appendectomy

The University of Utah’s men’s basketball team has never been on a longer losing streak than the one it is on right now.

But nobody is losing hope on a season that began with five wins and a lot of promise. So sad the Utes and coach Craig Smith late Wednesday night.

The Runnin’ Utes suffered their ninth-straight loss, matching a streak of futility from the 1935-36 season. They dropped a 71-54 decision to so-so Washington State in arguably their worst performance of a season that gets more and more forgettable with each passing week.

“We are obviously devastated about it,” said Utes guard Lazar Stefanovic, who led the team in scoring with 11 points. “I think we are a way better team than that, and we deserve to win more games. We have worked too hard for it.”

Not on this night, however. The Utes gave up 18 offensive rebounds, extra opportunities Wazzu turned into 15 second-chance points.

“They are an elite offensive rebounding team, top 40 in the country,” Utes coach Craig Smith said. “ They have great athleticism and size all the way up and down their lineup, and they certainly made us pay that way.”

Another culprit was turnovers, which has often been the case this season when the Utes (8-13, 1-10) venture out on the road. They committed 19, giveaways Wazzu (11-7, 4-3) turned into 19 points in the runaway win.

Washington State, an NCAA Tournament bubble team with a NET ranking of 58, led by as many as 24 points in the second half.

Smith used all kinds of different lineups, but to no avail. This Utah team’s margin for error is thin, as he’s said all season, and nothing but 40 minutes of execution will get it done in this league, especially on the road.

“What I think is, we just gotta step up, take a stand, and be better,” Stefanovic said. “There is no magical stick or something that can make all this vanish. It is us that needs to step up and stand for something, make a change, and win the games.”

Most of the shooting stats were fairly even. The Cougars launched 19 more shots than the Utes (65-46) and won despite shooting just 37% from the floor. Utah shot 39% and was a decent 35% from 3-point range.