Never let it be said that the University of Utah basketball team doesn’t make things interesting.
The seventh-seeded Utes hung around a Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinal vs. No. 2 seed USC for 40 minutes on Thursday night, but forty minutes weren’t enough. This game needed five extra minutes, then an additional five to decide things at T-Mobile Arena.
Finally, deep into the second overtime, Utah had no more answers.
The Utes went cold in the second overtime, going the final 3:38 without a field goal as USC claimed a 91-85 victory to advance to a Pac-12 semifinal against the winner of Thursday’s fourth quarterfinal between 11th-seeded Cal and No. 3 seed Colorado.
“I think we all know how much hardship everyone has gone through, not just our team, but the world,” Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said, fighting back tears as he spoke. “It has been a year of memories, guys will always remember what they’ve gone through. I couldn’t be more proud, there was no quit. It didn’t matter, win or lose. We have leadership, guys were engaged, guys wanted to get better.
“This season will not be measured by wins or losses.”
The key sequence in the second overtime came with Utah (12-13) down two. Alfonso Plummer bricked a driving layup with 1:08 left, the Trojans (22-6) controlled the rebound and down the other end, Evan Mobley’s short jumper pushed USC to a four-point lead at 87-83 with 36 seconds left. Utah got no closer.
The Utes did a nice job in two regular-season games against Mobley, the Pac-12 Player, Defensive Player and Freshman of the Year. The 7-foot center broke loose on Thursday, though, overcoming first-half foul trouble to finish with 26 points, nine rebounds and five blocks.
Plummer’s contested 3-pointer out of a timeout with 32 seconds left in the first overtime tied the game at 80. Down the other end, Tahj Eaddy’s driving layup attempt for the win was no good, sending the game to a second overtime. Plummer grinded his way to 16 points on 6-for-15 shooting in 44 minutes.
In the first overtime, USC led by as many as three on two separate occasions, but couldn’t put Utah away.
The teams traded buckets to open the first extra session, Branden Carlson’s 15-foot jumper tying the game at 75 with 3:39 to go. A short war of attrition, Mobley ending that with two free throws for a 77-75 Trojans lead with 2:20 left.
Utah trailed most of the second half, but willed the game to overtime, finally tying the game at 71 thanks to a pair of Ian Martinez free throws with two seconds left in regulation. Martinez finished with 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting, but fouled early in overtime after his fourth and fifth fouls came on consecutive possessions.