Nearly 40 hours after the Utah men’s basketball team walked off the court victorious against UCLA, the Runnin’ Utes tipped off against USC. The short turnaround proved costly for the Utes, who lost to USC Saturday afternoon in the Huntsman Center, 74-58.
“We played, what, 38 hours ago? And you try to tip off at 12:30 for some reason. I don’t know that we had a lot of gas in our tank,” said head coach Larry Krystkowiak following the loss.
David Collette led the Utes with 14 points, 10 of which came in the second half, as he was the only Ute to score in double figures. The next two leading scorers for Utah were Tyler Rawson and Parker Van Dyke who each finished with 9 points. As a team, the Utes shot 40.7 percent from the floor and 23.8 percent from beyond the arc.
The Utes struggled to work the ball inside in the early stages of the game. Ten of Utah’s first 15 field goal attempts came from behind the 3-point line, and they didn’t score any points in the paint until midway through the first half, but Krystkowiak said he didn’t feel like the team settled for long distance shots.
“We took what was presented to us,” Krystkowiak said. “With the way our guys are shooting the ball, getting a wide open 3, I’d rather them shoot that than a wide open layup at ten feet. That might seem like settling, but you get time and a half for the points.”
“They always have guys flying into the paint trying to get our shots blocked,” Rawson said. “We need to be stronger with the ball and just have a better mindset going to the rim.”
The Utes also struggled with ball security throughout the game. The team finished with 15 turnovers, its second most in any Pac-12 game this season.
“They have some length. They get out in passing lanes, [they have] strong hands. They were doing some things and taking [the ball] away from us and that was costly,” Krystkowiak said.
The crowded passing lanes also limited the Utes’ ball movement. They finished with only nine assists as a team, their second fewest in any game this season.
With just over three minutes to go in the first half, USC pushed its lead to 17 points, but Utah fought back in the final minutes before halftime as they put together a 9-2 run to cut USC’s lead to 10 points.
In the second half, Utah managed to cut the lead down to six twice. The first time, USC responded with a quick 5-0 run. The second time, it responded with a 16-0 run to put the Utes away.
The majority of USC’s run came while senior point guard Justin Bibbins sat on the bench, having picked up his fourth foul with about 10 minutes remaining. Without Bibbins, who finished with 8 points on 3-of-12 shooting, the Utes scored just four points in five minutes.
The Utes will now have a full week to prepare for their final game of the regular season, which will be against Colorado in the Huntsman Center next Saturday at 5:30 p.m.