Las Vegas • Byron Wesley turned his hands into 3-point goggles over his eyes after nailing the long-range bomb that every Utah fan hated to see on Wednesday night.
USC’s burly power forward turned and screamed at his teammates, demanding one more defensive stop as the Utes tenuously advanced the basketball, clinging to a one-point lead. The double-digit advantage was gone. An eerie silence hung over MGM Grand Garden Arena, as the pro-Utah crowd saw its team allowing yet another comeback.
Jarred DuBois, however, wouldn’t let the Utes lose. Not on this night.
A 69-66 win over the Trojans came on the back of Utah’s senior guard, who drained 22 points — a game high — and made shots when it mattered most. The Utes are now in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Conference Tournament, as DuBois made every big play that counted down the stretch. A rough season has yielded a more-than-positive ending, as Utah now boasts a three-game winning streak.
“It was senior leadership,” DuBois said. “I knew I had to step up.”
A game-ending mad scramble for a loose ball is indicative of just how crazy the matchup was between No. 10 Utah and No. 7 USC. In a year that saw the Utes largely without a go-to guy, DuBois played his best game at the most important time. Wesley’s shot made it 60-59. DuBois calmly swished an 18-footer. Not to be outdone, USC pushed the ball, penetrated the lane and found the mountainous Omar Oraby for a dunk to make it 62-61. DuBois hit a 3-pointer to push the advantage to four points. Utah mustered a defensive stop. DuBois got to the rim off the dribble and found Jason Washburn for a dunk.
Three possessions with the pressure of an entire season hanging in the balance. Three times, DuBois made the play that enabled the season to continue.
“These are the games that we’ve lost in the past,” Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “This team has grown and matured over the last three months. We’re very young, and I think we’ve had to figure out a way to win games. This is the result of a lot of lessons learned. I think I’ve had to learn some things as well. This is a team that didn’t win a lot of games last year.”
Of course, Utah surrendered two double-digit leads, one in the first half with the other coming late. Up 47-45 after a J.T. Terrell jumper, the Utes went on a 13-2 run to take a 60-47 advantage with six minutes remaining.
That sent the crowd into a near-frenzy as victory appeared imminent. Amazingly, the Trojans scored the next 12 points, and took just under three minutes to do so. And that’s when DuBois took over.
“We had a real problem with Jarred tonight,” USC coach Bob Cantu said. “Our goal coming into the game was to limit him and Jason Washburn. We did a good job on Washburn, but DuBois got to the rim and he made jumpers. He was real crafty, and he kind of took over in the last few minutes.”
Utah received several big performances from others on Wednesday night. Freshman forward Jordan Loveridge scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds, continuing his increased production of the last few weeks. Fellow freshman Dakarai Tucker scored just six points, but his two 3-pointers were gargantuan. Rookie point guard Brandon Taylor ran the offense and set his teammates up for good shots.
Without starting center Dewayne Dedmon — suspended indefinitely — the Trojans received 18 points and 10 rebounds from Oraby. But while USC’s athleticism overwhelmed the Utes in a January matchup, they caught this Utah team at the wrong time.
And now, the Utes will have one more night to fit into Cinderella’s slipper.
O Jarred DuBois scores a game-high 22 points.
• No. 10 Utah advances to a Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinal.
• The Utes take the lead with 11 minutes remaining in the first half and never surrender it.
Utah 69, USC 66
UTAH (14-17) • DuBois 7-12 6-7 22, Taylor 3-8 0-0 7, Loveridge 4-9 6-7 15, Washburn 3-14 4-4 10, Martin 0-1 0-1 0, Dean 1-2 2-2 5, Lenz 0-0 0-0 0, Tucker 2-5 0-0 6, Olsen 2-6 0-0 4. Totals 22-57 18-21 69.
SOUTHERN CAL (14-18) • Fontan 3-14 0-2 6, Terrell 5-11 2-2 14, Wesley 4-10 0-0 8, Wise 4-11 3-3 12, Oraby 8-11 2-2 18, Stewart 1-3 0-0 2, Fuller 3-7 0-0 6. Totals 28-67 7-9 66. Halftime—Utah 35-28. 3-Point Goals—Utah 7-16 (DuBois 2-3, Tucker 2-4, Dean 1-2, Loveridge 1-3, Taylor 1-3, Martin 0-1), Southern Cal 3-15 (Terrell 2-6, Wise 1-2, Stewart 0-1, Wesley 0-2, Fontan 0-4). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Utah 34 (Loveridge 9), Southern Cal 39 (Oraby 10). Assists—Utah 11 (DuBois 4), Southern Cal 11 (Fontan 7). Total Fouls—Utah 10, Southern Cal 15. A—NA.