Shooting Woes Plague Runnin’ Utes as They Lose to USC On the Road

University+of+Utah+men%27s+basketball+players+Pelle+Larsson+%28%233%29+and+Rylan+Jones+%28%2315%29+stand+as+their+teammate+takes+free-throws+in+the+Utes%27+win+against+Utah+Valley+on+Dec.+15%2C+2020+in+the+Jon+M.+Huntsman+Center+in+Salt+Lake+City.+%28Photo+by+Jack+Gambassi+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29

University of Utah men’s basketball players Pelle Larsson (#3) and Rylan Jones (#15) stand as their teammate takes free-throws in the Utes’ win against Utah Valley on Dec. 15, 2020 in the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Cole Bagley, Assistant Sports Editor

 

The Runnin’ Utes dropped their third loss of the season to the USC Trojans with a final score of 64-46. Despite overcoming a 22-6 deficit, Utah could not buy a bucket in the second half and will return home after going 0-2 on the road.

First Half

The Runnin’ Utes looked like they were playing in slow motion to begin the game on Saturday as USC got out to a quick 14-4 lead through the first five minutes. The Trojans were simply playing more aggressively than the Utes — during that stretch the Trojans shot 75% and also out-rebounded Utah 5-2. 

Trojans’ guard Isaiah White led the hot start for USC as he had 7 of the Trojans’ initial 22 points and was 3-4 from the field. USC would extend their lead to 14 points as Utah trailed 22-6 halfway through the first.

But Utah would begin to show some signs of life as they picked up their defensive effort, forced some turnovers and converted a few easy looks. This shift resulted in a 17-2 run for the Utes as they were able to cut it to a one-point lead with five minutes to go. Mikael Jantunen was the difference-maker during the run for Utah as he scored six of the 17 points and also forced a few of the USC turnovers. 

To end the half, the Trojans rediscovered a bit of their initial rhythm and led the Utes 32-28 after the first 20 minutes of play.

Second Half

Utah struggled out of the second half gates as they started shooting just 2-11 through the first seven minutes and went almost five minutes without a bucket. Lucky for Utah, the Trojans were nearly as bad with only six points and led 38-35 with 12 minutes remaining. 

But the Utes continued to struggle as they went 1-19 during a nearly 10-minute stretch and trailed 53-41 with 5:38 left in the ball game. Despite getting open looks, the Utes only scored only 18 points and fell behind as the Trojans were able to post 32 points in the second half. 

While USC didn’t exactly perform at a high level, they didn’t need to as Utah continually shot themselves in the foot with all their missed shots and defeated themselves at the end of the day.

Utah now drops to 4-3 on the season and 1-2 in conference play with the 64-46 loss to the Trojans.

Performance of the Game

When a team only scores 46 points and loses, it is tough to determine who really had the performance of the game. But against USC, the leading scorer for Utah was Ian Martinez with 10 points on 3-7 shooting. Other than that, Martinez didn’t do much — but neither did the rest of the team.

“I’m just trying to keep, ya know, adjusting to this type of level,” Martinez said. “There’s a lot of new experiences, which I am really excited about. And just getting better and being able to contribute to the team and play my role the best I can.

Notable Performances 

Timmy Allen struggled immensely against USC as he only scored five points on 2-14 shooting which was well below his season average of 15.8 going into the matchup against the Trojans. However, Allen did have a solid performance on the boards as he tied his season-high with eight total rebounds.

USC also did a good job shutting down Alfonso Plummer as the three-point specialist finished with just seven points and was 1-7 from beyond the arc.

Notable Statistic

No matter who was shooting it, Utah could not hit a shot to save their lives. The Utes went 17-61 from the floor, which ultimately sealed their fate as they actually had 14 more shots than the Trojans. But the major difference is that USC stuck to an inside game and hit 25 of their 47 shots.

Additionally, Utah went 3-22 from beyond the three-point line, a pitiful statistic that will never lead to winning basketball.

“We missed a lot of open ones,” head coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “In order to shoot a normal percentage from three, you have to make the ones when you’re open. In one stretch, four possessions, we missed two layups, and then we missed two draws and kicked three’s to perimeter guys that were wide open. Whether it’s a two or a three, in order to not put so much heat on your defense, you’ve got to be able to knock down shots.

A Look Ahead

The Runnin’ Utes will now return home as they host both Oregon schools next week. First up, the Oregon State Beavers will be in town on Wednesday, Jan. 6 with a tip-off of 9 p.m. MST. The game will be broadcasted on ESPNU and as always you can also listen on ESPN 700 with Bill Riley on the call.

 

[email protected] 

@bagley_cole