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Utes’ offense looking better
Utah basketball » Road trip struggles disappear vs. Trojans.
First Published Jan 16 2014 10:19 pm • Last Updated Jan 17 2014 10:03 am

The big question Thursday was whether the Utah basketball team’s offense would return to normal.

One half against USC is a small sample size, and the Utes were playing at home. But for those 20 minutes, Utah resembled the team that inhabited the Huntsman Center for most of the season.

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The pace was back. The perimeter jumpers were back. The transition game was back. And so were the points.

Utah scored 39 against the Trojans in the first half on Thursday night. More encouraging was the play of sophomore forward Dakarai Tucker. As one of the Utes’ best perimeter shooters, Tucker was missing in action on the Washington road trip. But he led his team with 10 points against USC. He made two 3-pointers, he made mid-range jumpers and he got himself to the free-throw line as well.

As a team, Utah shot 47 percent from the field. The Utes turned the ball over four times and had eight assists. They did shoot just 3 for 11 from beyond the arc, but even with misses, most of those were good shots.

Maybe the difference is simply playing at home, versus playing away from Salt Lake City. But Utah played much better offensively than they had at any point last week in losses to Washington and Washington State.

Making an impact

Because of the size and mass of USC’s 7-foot-2 center, Omar Oraby, Utah’s big men all encountered foul trouble in the first half, with Jeremy Olsen picking three fouls and Dallin Bachynski and Marko Kovacevic getting two fouls each.

But Kovacevic, the junior center, still provided a big lift off the bench, scoring five points in six minutes. In his earliest and most extended run, Kovacevic finished nicely in the paint and provided a physical presence when Utah sorely needed it.

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Senior forward Renan Lenz didn’t play because of the sprained ankle he suffered in Sunday’s loss at Washington State.


Twitter: @tjonessltrib

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