Los Angeles • For the first time this season, Utah looked overmatched for a prolonged period.
For the first time, the Utes lost a game by double-digits and seemed outclassed in the process. If you had told Larry Krystkowiak before the Los Angeles road trip that his team would split between USC and UCLA, he would gladly have taken that result.
But the impact of Saturday’s 80-66 loss to the Bruins at Pauley Pavilion will have a grand effect on any competitor. And Krystkowiak is nothing, if not a competitor.
“I guess it’s good that we don’t have to answer questions anymore about winning on the road,” Krystkowiak said. “But the USC game was two days ago, and we don’t want to live in the past. We thought this was a game we could get, so it’s disappointing that we didn’t play well at key times.”
Offense, defense — it was a perfect storm of futility for Utah against UCLA. The offense lacked a flow and seemed disjointed throughout. The defense evidently forgot Jordan Adams was on the roster for the Bruins, because the sophomore small forward scored seemingly all of his 24 points on wide-open looks at the basket.
UCLA dunked the ball over Ute players. The Bruins laughed as they converted transition layups. They chest-bumped each other with glee each time Krystkowiak called timeout, and they took great joy in building a 17-point second-half lead before 9,577 fans.
Clearly, UCLA took this game personally, avenging its loss to Utah three weeks ago at the Huntsman Center.
“They played hard and we didn’t really match that intensity,” point guard Delon Wright said. “I thought we should’ve been more aggressive, but we just didn’t play well when it mattered.”
Wright was one of the few Utah players who looked like himself on Saturday, scoring 16 points, handing out seven assists and grabbing six rebounds. Brandon Taylor scored eight points in the first half, but didn’t score in the second 20 minutes. Jordan Loveridge continues to be great on some nights and a mystery on others. The sophomore forward scored six points and grabbed four rebounds and battled foul problems all night.
“They came out and played hard on the defensive end in the second half,” Krystkowiak said. “They got up on us and it demoralized us a little bit and they gained some separation. I give our guys credit, they never gave up and they never stopped playing. But we have a lot of work to do.”
The loss isn’t a killer for the Utes’ postseason hopes. They fall to 6-7 in the Pac-12, 16-8 overall. But three consecutive home games loom large for Krystkowiak’s program, as they try to remain relevant in the middle of the conference.
Utah never cut the lead below 10 points in the second half. The closest the Utes got to was 74-64 in the waning moments. UCLA sophomore Kyle Anderson scored 16 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and handed out five assists. Norman Powell had 13 points and one resounding dunk over Dallin Bachynski.
“We just never got into the flow today,” Loveridge said. “We didn’t play well and we just have to go and watch film on Monday to see what we could’ve done better.”
R Utah loses by its widest margin of the season.
• Delon Wright leads the Utes with 16 points and seven assists.
• Utah falls to 16-8 overall, 6-7 in the Pac-12.