Here are some thoughts and observations from Utah's win over USC
1) It's a shame to even have to write this. But a big reason for Utah's victory is because the game was called evenly. It's the first road game this season the Utes weren't playing 5 on 8 and it made a difference. The team was given a fair whistle and the game was decided by the players. The most egregious example to the contrary was the loss to Arizona State, where just the opposite happened.
2) You could feel the Utes exhale when Jordan Loveridge made his huge 3-pointer to give the Utes a 76-68 lead and all but end the game. Until that point, Utah was still struggling to put the game away and to make the right plays that were needed to put the game away. When Loveridge made his big shot, it was like air being let out of a balloon. It will be interesting to see if Utah finds a new confidence in its remaining three road games.
3) The celebratory life of a basketball coach is very slim indeed. Scarcely two hours after Utah's win, Larry Krystkowiak and head assistant Tommy Connor were in the lobby of the team hotel, discussing UCLA. While Utah fans milled around, eating, drinking and being merry, Krystkowiak and Connor were busy devising a way to deal with UCLA's potent offense. It will be a challenge.
4) Dallin Bachynski is the most pleasant surprise of the season. Everyone knew he had the talent to succeed. But he's been consistently good this year. He's gotten better at scoring in the paint and for the first time this season, he was able to consistently score against size with his back to the basket. He's also made a good number of free-throws this year, and that's big for an interior guy. He's simply done a 180 from where he was at last year at this point
5) Utah's lax offense at the beginning of the game was all about playing hard. The Utes weren't screening hard, cutting hard, running their offense hard. As a result, they stalled. That changed midway through the first half. And once it did, Utah basically got almost any shot it wanted for the remainder of the game.
6) Utah created separation for good when Brandon Taylor began guarding Byron Wesley. Although Taylor at 5-foot-8 gives up a ton of weight and height, he was able to guard Wesley over screens and cut off his drives to the basket. Yes, Wesley did score on some post-ups, but doing so cut off USC's offense. Wesley went 8-18 from the field, and the Utes would take that shooting percentage all day every day.
7) It's a compliment to Larry Krystkowiak's program that twitter basically had an all morning argument on Friday, wondering whether Utah is NCAA Tournament worthy or not. Since 2009, by this time, most of Ute nation's focus has been on spring football. Not this year, though.
8) Quietly, Krystkowiak's built himself what could be a tough out in the Pac-12 tournament. These Utes have a dynamic player in Delon Wright, a very good player in Jordan Loveridge, a good amount of size and a good amount of depth.
9) In many ways, Thursday was Jordan Loveridge's best game of the season. He had 19 points, eight rebounds and four assists. But he was efficient and he made several big shots throughout. He's been playing within himself in the past three games, and it's yielded results.
10) Utah's team bus broke down just after shootaround on Thursday. That could've been a harbringer of things to come. Instead, the Utes simply brushed it off.