Los Angeles • Twice, the University of Utah was close in Los Angeles. Twice, the Utes came up empty.
Three days after coughing up a late second-half lead at USC, the Utes played from behind Sunday afternoon at UCLA. When it was over, all Utah had to show for itself was a lost weekend.
The Utes got to within four midway through the second half, but never got all the way back, dropping a 73-57 decision to UCLA in front of 4,497 at venerable Pauley Pavilion.
Utah (12-9, 3-6 Pac-12) is now 0-5 on the road in the Pac-12 after losing both games to the LA schools. The Utes fell to the Trojans at the Galen Center on Thursday night, 69-65.
“We didn’t make enough plays at Arizona State [on Jan. 18 in an 83-64 loss], we didn’t make enough plays at USC, but we’re in those ballgames,” Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “Tonight, it’s a fine line, too. It’s a four-point game and you’ve got to have a group that has some onions, that’s going to step up and get some stops and score.
“One thing about it is, we rode some guys pretty hard, some heavy minutes. It’s like a heavyweight fight where you get into the later rounds. You better be pretty special if you’re going to step up and make plays.”
Alfonso Plummer’s left-corner triple with 8:42 to play cut the Utah deficit to four at 50-46. As was the case at multiple points earlier in the second half when the Utes came charging, UCLA had an answer.
Redshirt freshman point guard Tyger Campbell’s 8-foot jumper in the lane was followed by a Jules Bernard midrange jumper from the right wing to give the Bruins (12-10, 5-4 Pac-12) a 54-46 lead going to the under-8 media timeout.
Campbell was outstanding in the second half in finishing with a career-high 22 points on 7-for-13 shooting to go along with eight assists.
Utah never seriously challenged again, while UCLA completed its most-productive weekend of the season with a sweep of the Mountain schools. The Bruins were coming off a 72-68 win over No. 20 Colorado on Thursday night.
“I think we had opportunities in both games to get over the hump, cut the lead and tie it up, but it seemed like there was always a mental mistake that led to a big score,” said Timmy Allen, who finished with 13 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, but shot 5-for-16, part of a 10-for-36 weekend. “It’s the details. There’s no small things, so we have to get back to work.”
Too often over the last month, Utah’s halfcourt offense has looked stuck in mud. That was the case for much of the first half on Sunday as the Utes shot just 9 for 27 from the floor and 1 for 12 from 3-point range.
Both sides endured a first-half scoring drought that eclipsed 5:00. The Bruins went 5:25 late in the first half without a field goal, which helped momentarily make it a game.
Branden Carlson put down alley-oop feed from Jaxon Brenchley to cut the Ute deficit, once as many as 13, to seven with 2:06 before halftime, but they got no closer. After Campbell scored on the fastbreak, the Bruins got a stop before redshirt senior guard Prince Ali knocked down a straightaway 3-pointer to push the lead back to 13 with 59 seconds left.
Both Gach missed a second straight game with a knee injury. Like Thursday night at USC, the sophomore wing dressed and warmed up before it was determined he would sit.