Utah basketball: Utes beat USC 79-71 for first Pac-12 road win
Los Angeles • Utah's team bus broke down in the middle of a busy intersection Thursday morning, right after the Utes had finished shoot-around in preparation for USC. Frustrated with the wait, Larry Krystkowiak and some of his players rode a cab back to the team hotel in Manhattan Beach.
As it turns out, that would be the low point of the day for the Utah basketball program.
The Utes' long nightmare is over, the drought is finished. A 79-71 win over the Trojans before seemingly dozens in an empty Galen Center proved that Utah can indeed win away from the Huntsman Center.
It wasn't easy. The Utes built a 58-42 lead with 12 minutes to go, only to see it shrink to 71-67 with two minutes remaining. But for once, Utah was the team that got to the loose balls, got the big rebounds and hit the big shots.
"It was a huge win for us," sophomore point guard Brandon Taylor said. "We came out with the mindset that we were going to do anything that we could to get ourselves a win. We didn't play as well as we would've liked, but it was enough. That matters."
Clinging to a 73-68 advantage with the crowd into the game for the first time Utes sophomore forward Jordan Loveridge hit a huge 3-pointer from the right wing to give Utah a 76-68 advantage and provide a dagger. It may have been the biggest single shot of the season.
It wrapped up a nice all-around game for Loveridge, who finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Delon Wright was his usual self, scoring 20 points, grabbing nine rebounds and handing out five assists. Dakarai Tucker scored all 12 of his points in the second half - and 11 of those came in the first eight minutes, getting hot from three-point range and providing a lift.
"We moved the ball around and we were unselfish tonight," Tucker said. "We played very well at the beginning of the second half, and that gave us a lead. We'll have to go and look at the film to see what we could've done better, but we're happy."
The victory marks a milestone in a number of ways for the Utes. They move to 17-7 on the season, and 6-6 in Pac-12 play. It's the latest .500 or above league record they've had since moving over from the Mountain West.
By winning over USC, Utah also sweeps an opponent for the first time in Pac-12 play. The Utes will have a chance to break that .500 mark for the first time, if they can find a way to win at UCLA on Saturday afternoon.
Utah received important performances from a number of sources. Dallin Bachynski scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds. More importantly, he scored in the paint and provided a nice defensive boost on the interior when USC started to drive the lane off the dribble.
Taylor scored nine points. But his defense on Trojans star Byron Wesley in the second half was especially impactful. Wesley scored 20 points, but shot 8-for-18 and struggled with Taylor's quickness.
Most importantly, Utah finally didn't panic when a team made a run. Unlike Arizona, and Colorado, the Utes didn't wilt when USC made a big push. And that's why Utah finally can say it won a road game.