Runnin’ Utes Return Home to Face UCLA and USC


University of Utah freshman guard Pelle Larsson (3) in a NCAA Basketball game vs. the Arizona Wildcats at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. (Photo by Kevin Cody | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Cole Bagley, Sports Editor


After a disappointing road trip going 0-2 against the Oregon schools, the University of Utah Runnin’ Utes look to improve their overall record above .500 and elevate their conference record to just a game below .500 as they return home and face UCLA and USC.

The Runnin’ Utes

Ranking: N/A

Record: (9-10, 6-9 Pac-12)

Last Game: L vs. Oregon, 67-64

After being shorthanded due to an injured Rylan Jones and a call up for Mikael Jantunen from the Finnish National Team, the Runnin’ Utes are coming off of a difficult Oregon road trip as they dropped both games. In their first matchup, it was a closely contested first half but Oregon State ran away with it in the second as the Utes conceded several large runs. Against Oregon, it was a tight battle until the final moments when some key turnovers doomed the Utes and they came up just short.

Despite the losses, Timmy Allen continues to shine bright for the Utes as he averaged 19.5 PPG between the two games and also shot a combined 15-31 (48%) from the field. As Allen consistently contributes in a major way, Utah cannot seem to consistently support him as only one other Ute finished in double-scoring against the Beavers, though three others had double-digit performances against the Ducks. If Utah is to finish this season strong, they will need more production outside of their superstar.

This week will prove difficult as the Utes face the top two teams in the Pac-12 Conference, UCLA and No. 19 USC who are both 12-3 in conference play. The status of Jones and Jantunen are still in question but the Utes will have their hands full regardless if they return or not.

The UCLA Bruins

Ranking: N/A

Record: (16-5, 12-3 Pac-12)

Last Game: W vs. Arizona State, 80-79

The Bruins are coming off of a narrow victory against Arizona State where they actually trailed 41-34 at halftime. But thanks to a 46-point second half, and four of the Bruins starters finishing with double-digits, they were able to outlast the Sun Devils and win by a single point.

The Utes and Bruins have faced off once before this season and that game was also decided by just one possession as Utah lost 72-70. Four Bruins also finished that game in double-digits led by senior guard Chris Smith, who finished the game with 16.

Utah will have to play great team defense as the Bruins often share the load and don’t rely on a single player for their offense.

The USC Trojans

Ranking: 19

Record: (18-4, 12-3 Pac-12)

Last Game: L vs. Arizona, 81-72

Despite being upset by Arizona in their last game, the USC Trojans are currently the only Pac-12 team ranked in the top 25. With that being said, as previously mentioned, the Trojans were upset by Arizona as the well ran dry in the second half and they only shot 12-33 (36%) from the floor. They also struggled to slow down James Akinjo and Jordan Brown as the two combined for 39 points and went 13-27 (48%) from the field.

The Utes and Trojans have also met once before on what was an extremely poor shooting day for both teams. Utah finished with a horrific 17-61 (28%) from the field and 3-22 (14%) from the three-point range. USC finished much better from the field as they were 25-47 (53%) but also struggled from three as they went 6-19 (32%). Senior guard Tahj Eaddy scorched the Utes with 18 points that night, leading the Trojans to a 64-46 victory. No doubt he will be a focus for Utah defensively as he is averaging 13.8 PPG on the season.

Follow the Matchups

The Utes will first welcome the UCLA Bruins to the Huntsman Center on Thursday, Feb. 25, with a tip-off of 6 p.m. MST, broadcast on the Pac-12 Network. Utah will then face USC at home on Saturday, Feb. 27, which also has a tip-off of 6 p.m. MST. The game against USC will be broadcast on ESPN2 or ESPNU and as always, both games will be a radio broadcast on ESPN 700 with Bill Riley on the call.


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