Runnin’ Utes Drop Close One on the Road to UCLA

University+of+Utah+Men%27s+Basketball+guard+Timmy+Allen+%28%231%29+looks+for+a+pass+through+the+University+of+Washington+defense+in+the+opening+game+between+the+two+teams+in+the+Jon+M.+Huntsman+Center+on+U+of+U+campus+on+Dec.+3%2C+2020.+%28Photo+by+Jack+Gambassi+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29

University of Utah Men’s Basketball guard Timmy Allen (#1) looks for a pass through the University of Washington defense in the opening game between the two teams in the Jon M. Huntsman Center on U of U campus on Dec. 3, 2020. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ethan Pearce, Assistant Sports Editor

 

The University of Utah men’s basketball team dropped a close game on Thursday evening, falling to UCLA on the road. It was a back and forth contest the entire night which came down to the final possession. Utah is now 4-2 overall and 1-1 in Pac-12 play.

First Half

The Runnin’ Utes got off to a blazing start on New Year’s Eve behind some hot shooting from senior Alfonso Plummer. Plummer had the first 14 points of the game for the Utes, hitting four threes in the first four minutes to give the Utes a 16-4 lead. Following a timeout by the Bruins, however, they used a 14-0 scoring run to take the lead. From there, the game was close for the rest of the half as Utah and UCLA both began to struggle. The hot offense to start the game melted away for both teams and UCLA’s defense started to take hold. They played well for the last few minutes of the half and took a 41-32 lead at the break. Utah had 14 points in the first four minutes and just 18 points during the entire rest of the half. 

One thing that jumped out in the first half was hot three-point shooting on both sides, as the Utes and Bruins combined for 13-26 from downtown, a clean 50%. UCLA senior Chris Smith had 13 points on 6-6 shooting at the break. 

Second Half

The second half was more of the same with some sluggish play from both teams. Utah hung around and kept it close as UCLA struggled to score for the first few minutes. The Utes cut the lead to just two points midway through the quarter after UCLA didn’t score for over three minutes. The Utes finally took the lead, 58-57, on a pair of Riley Battin free throws with 7:17 left to play. 

From there, it was back and forth for the rest of the night, and Utah found themselves down 66-68 with under two minutes to go. The Utes fouled junior Jalen Hill, down 70-68, with 16 seconds to go and no timeouts. Hill went one for two at the line to go up by three. Plummer found his way to the line for Utah after drawing a foul on a three-point shot. Plummer hit two out of three to cut the lead to just a single point, then the Utes fouled Hill again with 3.9 seconds left. Hill went one for two again, then UCLA head coach Mick Cronin took a timeout, giving Utah a chance to tie or win the game at the buzzer, down 72-70. Needing to go the full length of the court, Utah advanced the ball to freshman Pelle Larsson. Larsson couldn’t find a shot, attempted a pass and the ball went straight to a white jersey. Game over, Utah falls on the road.

Postgame Wrap-Up

“It’s just one of those college basketball games that was a one-possession game and it was there for the taking,” said head coach Larry Krystkowiak. “We put a pretty good player in a position to make a play. Gotta move on from it… He didn’t really turn it over, he came down and he didn’t shoot the ball… I’ve gotta do a better job in those end of game situations, putting our guys in better positions.”

The Utes now need to bounce back after a disappointing loss. Junior Timmy Allen finished with 18 points on 8-14 shooting, Plummer had 22 on 7-16. Utah is still a young team, but they’re capable of getting some wins in tough Pac-12 games. They’ll need to play a more complete game for that to happen, but there were some good signs from tonight.

Utah has not won a Pac-12 road game since Feb. 23, 2018, against Washington State. They will certainly be looking to remedy that unfortunate streak sooner rather than later. They play at USC on Saturday, Jan. 2 to kick-off 2021. 

 

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