The losses to Arizona and UCLA were understandable for many.
Falling to Arizona State in overtime was frustrating, but accepted by the Utah basketball fanbase. After all, the Utes were making clear progress.
Storylines Trojans 76, Utes 59USC closes the first half on a 7-0 run.
» USC’s Dewayne Dedmon scores 13 points, grabs 13 rebounds and blocks five shots.
» Utah falls to 0-4 in the Pac-12 Conference.
Suffering a 76-59 beatdown to USC? The same USC that entered the Huntsman Center on Saturday afternoon with a 6-10 record? The same USC that entered the matchup with 14 consecutive Pac-12 road defeats?
Well, now Utah’s running out of explanations for a winless league record.
In front of 11,027 fans, the largest crowd of the season, the Utes turned in what was arguably their worst performance of the year. It’s certainly the most damaging, as light boos cascaded down from the rafters with the sound of the final buzzer. Many had already left by then.
"We were manhandled tonight," Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "They were physical with us, and we were slow to respond. Whether it was our physical stature, our style of play or whatever. It just didn’t bode well for us tonight. They were the aggressor, and the aggressor won tonight."
Now, Utah sits at 0-4 in the league and 8-8 overall. By far, Saturday’s loss represents the largest of the season. For the first time this year, Krystkowiak’s team was soundly beaten from start to finish.
Fans on Twitter commented on the defeat, calling it deflating, saying that it invoked memories of last season. Indeed, a Huntsman Center that was lively on Thursday night against UCLA and even more so against the Trojans could be a lot less full in two weeks when Utah comes back to Salt Lake City to face California.
And with a tough road trip looming this week at Washington State and Washington, all of a sudden the league could slip away from the Utes in the first three weeks of the schedule.
"Right now, we have no definitive answers," Utah center Jason Washburn said. "We have to get better. We have to play better, and we have to figure out where we can improve."
As has been the norm, the Utes struggled mightily offensively against USC. They shot 37.5 percent for the game. They missed eight free throws, atypical for them. And they went 4 of 15 from 3-point range.
Now here’s the surprise: A normally stout defense, one of the best in the Pac-12, didn’t show up. Usually, Utah surrenders 57 points per game. The Trojans blew through that total on Saturday. USC made 7 of 15 3-point attempts. They received a 13-point, 13-rebound, five-block performance from Dewayne Dedmon. The win over the Utes is the first road victory for USC in nearly two years. The margin is the second-widest of the season for the Trojans.
With a 25-23 lead late in the first half, USC went on a 7-0 run. Kevin O’Neill’s club was never seriously threatened again.
"I think we always come out a little too passive," Jarred DuBois said. "We are always reacting. We always take the first shot, and then we dig ourselves out. Tonight we couldn’t do that, and it cost us. We have to come out and be aggressive."
DuBois played well, but was one of few to do so, scoring 18 points to lead Utah, while grabbing three rebounds. Washburn had 13 points, but grabbed just four rebounds, ending a three-game streak of double-doubles. Freshman forward Jordan Loveridge scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
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