It may have been ugly down the stretch. It may have caused some fans to turn prematurely gray. A few program supporters may have even thrown or kicked things around the house. In spite of it all, Utah now owns a signature win.
Before 12,267 at the Huntsman Center, the Utes did what they couldn’t do a little over two weeks ago when they coughed one up against Oregon: beat a nationally ranked team.
O Utah defeats a nationally ranked team for the first time this season.
» Jordan Loveridge leads the way with 17 points and nine rebounds.
» Utah moves to 3-3 in the Pac-12.
By playing great defense, by putting four players in double figures in scoring and by getting a career night from a little-used freshman, Utah upset No. 25 UCLA 74-69 on Saturday afternoon, its first win over a ranked opponent this season.
It was a day when the program recognized its history by honoring the best Utah players from the 1990s. Independent of that, these Utes made a little history of their own, beating the Bruins for the first time since 1983.
"I’m proud of the fact that we were able to close this out, even though there were some bumps in the road," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "They caused some problems for us, but the kids worked really hard, and we worked really hard to protect something we had worked hard to get for 36 minutes. But we beat a really good team and this was a terrific weekend for us."
Krystkowiak alluded to the last five minutes, which weren’t easy. In fact, they had to be positively gut-wrenching for any Utes fan. It started out as a celebration, with Utah building a 53-36 lead with 12:50 remaining when Jordan Loveridge hit a deep 3-pointer. The Huntsman Center was rocking. Seemingly everyone anticipated a rout.
But the Bruins are a terrific offensive team led by Kyle Anderson, who could be the best player in the Pac-12. Anderson methodically worked his way to a game-high 28 points. In the same fashion, his team got back into it, pulling within 60-56 with six minutes left.
"We knew they were a good team and we knew they were going to make a run," said Loveridge, a sophomore forward. "We weren’t surprised, we just had to answer."
The Utes scored the next six points to take a 66-56 advantage. Once again, the Huntsman was on fire. Once again, UCLA rallied, eventually pulling within 71-69 with 22 seconds remaining when Anderson found Norman Powell for an open layup.
Sophomore guard Brandon Taylor made two big free throws and Delon Wright made another from the line to provide the final score and the huge upset.
"We were just pumped today, we were ready to play," Taylor said. "I thought we played great defensively. It’s a big win for us."
Loveridge led Utah with 17 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Taylor, Wright and freshman guard Kenneth Ogbe scored 12 points each. Ogbe in particular was huge against the Bruins. He went 4-for-4 from the field, 2-for-2 from behind the arc and made a pair of huge free throws down the stretch.
The nightmarish two-loss week at Washington and Washington State has been offset by two wins this week. The Utes move to 14-4 on the season, 3-3 in Pac-12 play. They are at the .500 mark this deep into the conference year for the first time in their new league. They will finish this weekend no worse than tied for sixth place.
"Everyone got a little more juiced up for this game," Krystkowiak said. "We told the kids this is it. This is why you join the Pac-12, to play in games like these."
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.