There are times when Delon Wright is so dominant, he affects the game in every way. On those nights, there’s little the opposition can do to stop Utah’s junior point guard. And if he gets help from his teammates, the Utes usually win.
Thursday was one of those nights. USC was the opposition. And the win came in the form of a 84-66 second-half breeze before 9,231 at the Huntsman Center.
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Wright was the catalyst, filling every portion of the stat sheet. His 22 points, six rebounds, six steals, five assists and two blocked shots were even more impressive when you consider that his impact on the game went even beyond the numbers.
Simply put, Wright was the best player on the floor, making an indelible impression on the Trojans.
"We were trying to get the ball inside, but the way we were hitting shots early, that really opened things up for us," Wright said. "This is how we have to play. We really need to keep this mindset going forward with the UCLA game coming up."
Utah moves to 13-4 on the season, and 2-3 in Pac-12 play. The Utes took control for good midway through the second half with a 17-2 run that turned a 60-55 lead into a 77-57 advantage.
In doing so, Utah looked nothing like the team that could barely score last week in road losses at Washington and Washington State. Last week, the Utes looked like Pete Carril’s old Princeton teams, walking the ball up the floor, passing it around for 30 seconds and forcing up shots as the clock ran out. On Thursday night, Utah pushed the ball up the floor, took the first available shot and got out into transition quite often. It worked, as the Utes looked like the team that played in November and December.
"We had some guys who were embarrassed with the Washington trip," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "I think it’s a misconception that your effort is judged by how you play defensively. We needed to do that on offense, as well. I was very pleased with how many extra passes were made. Dakarai [Tucker] was able to knock down his three’s and Delon stepped up and made his free throws."
The open offense helped unleash Wright, and helped the other players as well. Tucker notched a career-high 18 points, sniping from the perimeter, and hitting 3-pointers. Sophomore forward Jordan Loveridge was solid with 16 points, five rebounds and four assists. Those three did the bulk of the damage, although the players manning the center position (Dallin Bachynski, Jeremy Olsen and Marko Kovacevic) combined for 19 points between them.
The contest was close in the first half, with USC even nudging out to a 24-18 lead after 10 minutes. But a 12-1 run put Utah in control for good. Once the Utes grabbed the lead, they never surrendered it, even as the Trojans made several pushes to get within striking distance.
Pe’Shon Howard led USC with 16 points, and JT Terrell scored 12 for the Trojans.
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