Runnin’ Utes to Finish Up Regular Season Against SoCal Foes

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Runnin’ Utes to Finish Up Regular Season Against SoCal Foes

University of Utah junior forward/center Jayce Johnson (34) shoots over University of Arizona freshman guard Doutrive, Devonaire (1) during an NCAA Basketball game at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

University of Utah junior forward/center Jayce Johnson (34) shoots over University of Arizona freshman guard Doutrive, Devonaire (1) during an NCAA Basketball game at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

Kiffer Creveling

University of Utah junior forward/center Jayce Johnson (34) shoots over University of Arizona freshman guard Doutrive, Devonaire (1) during an NCAA Basketball game at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

Kiffer Creveling

Kiffer Creveling

University of Utah junior forward/center Jayce Johnson (34) shoots over University of Arizona freshman guard Doutrive, Devonaire (1) during an NCAA Basketball game at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Tony Kar

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After falling short to the Colorado Buffaloes in their last game, the University of Utah men’s basketball team will return to Salt Lake City to wrap up their regular season against both UCLA and USC before spring break.

In their last game with Colorado, the Utes were able to keep pace throughout the entire game. However, they struggled immensely from behind the arc. It was a rough performance, as Utah shot 4/26 from downtown and, as a result, they couldn’t find much offensive momentum.

USC has been 2-5 in their past seven games and has not demonstrated consistency throughout this season as they’re just one game above .500 with a 15-14 record. Trojans Senior Bennie Boatwright has played great basketball this whole season, and has averaged 18.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.

The Utes should be able to take care of a struggling USC team. With Utah winning their last four of seven games, they’ll feel motivated to add on another win. Especially with shooting poorly in their last game against Colorado, the players and coaching staff are ready to prove themselves in this game.

After the Utes wrap up their game against USC, they’ll be set to take on the surging UCLA Bruins. The Bruins have finally found their winning ways, as they have won their last four of five games and have an overall 16-13 record. Bruins guard Jaylen Hands has been playing better basketball recently, and has had double-digit scoring efforts in the last seven games.

The Runnin’ Utes will have a tougher time with UCLA, as opposed to playing against a struggling USC team. Despite the Utes winning their last four of seven, they’ve taken some tough losses, which have included scoring just 45 points against Washington, falling short to Arizona State at home, and shooting poorly once again against a Pac-12 foe in Colorado.

With the Utes being 23-12 last year, while making it all the way to the NIT Finals, their expectations were raised to another level for this season as the team was expected to make improvements. This has been an identity issue for the Runnin’ Utes. They have a ton of talent on a team that features veterans, youth and potential. Every great team in the NCAA has an identity. Whether it’s defense, three-point shooting, attacking the rim or ball movement, it could be tough to see what this team’s identity is.

With the possibility of winning these two games against conference opponents, the Utes’ confidence will be at an all-time high as they head into the Pac-12 Tournament. These games will be crucial and time will only tell if the Runnin’ Utes will be able to step up to the plate and perform. Moments like these are what the team has been working for all season. It’s time to go out and prove that they can be big time.

Utah is set to tip-off with USC on Thursday, March 7, at 8 p.m. MT in the Huntsman Center. Following that, the Runnin’ Utes will conclude their regular season in the Huntsman Center with UCLA on Saturday, March 9, at 5 p.m. MT.

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