Runnin’ Utes Lose Fourth Straight As UCLA Shoots Lights Out


University of Utah sophomore center Branden Carlson (35) in a NCAA Basketball game vs. UCLA at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Photo by Kevin Cody | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Cole Bagley, Sports Editor


The University of Utah Runnin’ Utes dropped their fourth straight game as UCLA shot the lights out and defeated Utah, 76-61.

First Half

It was a slow start to begin the game as both teams’ defenses were solid right out of the gates. The defensive schemes were extremely effective, causing turnovers and forcing bad shots on both ends of the floor. Through five minutes the Utes led the contest 11-8.

Branden Carlson led the way offensively early on, getting open looks close to the basket, including a two-handed flush on a defensive breakdown by the Bruins. He scored six of the Utes’ first 11 points.

While the Utes had the early lead, the Bruins finally found their footing as they went on a 7-0 run, connecting on five-straight field goals over a two minute stretch to take a 15-11 lead.

Interestingly enough, through 13 minutes Utah only trailed 22-17 despite UCLA shooting 9-15 (60%) from the floor and 3-4 (75%) from three-point range. 

Ian Martinez was excellent in the first half as he contributed on both ends of the floor, especially defensively as he was locking down the Bruins and led the team in blocks with two. His athleticism is often severely overlooked and he continually brings a strong spark off of the bench for the Utes as he did in the first 20 minutes of play.

UCLA’s defensive scheme was laser-focused on shutting down Timmy Allen and they found great success. Through the first half, Allen had two points on 1-7 (14%) from the floor and looked completely out of character. He even missed a breakaway dunk as he took off too early and came up short on the finish.

The Utes trailed 35-27 at half and were only in the game thanks to Carlson, who had 13 points on 6-9 (66%) from the floor, leading all scorers.

Second Half

UCLA came out of the locker room hot as they put together a 19-7 run through the first five minutes. They attacked the paint with tenacity as they used their size advantage and backed down the Utes with ease. Big man Cody Riley was feasting in the paint as Carlson struggled to slow him down. With the run, the Bruins led 54-34 with less than 14 minutes to go.

The Bruins continued to light it up in the second half as they were 11-15 (73%) from the floor through the first 10 minutes. Meanwhile, Utah couldn’t buy a bucket as they were just 5-12 (41%) and were taking a lot of contested shots.

Allen remained M.I.A. as he was 1-4 (25%) and looked completely disinterested in contributing to the Utes’ efforts.

Not much changed over the final 10 minutes as the Bruins continued to shoot the lights out and would quickly answer Utah anytime they showed signs of life. The Bruins outscored the Utes 41-34 in the second half and shot a scorching 17-30 (56%) from the field and 5-9 (55%) from three-point range. UCLA would go on to defeat Utah, 76-61.

“We did some things that were positive,” head coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “A low turnover game battled on the glass and shared the ball. We just need to make more shots. And I thought we had a little bit of give-up in us, which cannot be part of our identity, but it’s not unusual when a team is clipping right along at such a good offensive pace. It gets a little hard, ya know, it puts a lot of pressure on your offense when you come down and you’re taking the ball out the net all the time.”

Performance of the Game

Carlson had one of his best performances of the season as he scored a team-high 17 points on 8-14 (57%) from the floor. He was also incredibly aggressive on the defensive end as he grabbed six rebounds and tied his season high of four blocks.

Notable Performance’s

Martinez continues to stand out as he scored 10 points on 4-6 (66%) from the floor and a perfect 2-2 from three-point range. His athleticism and eye for the game continue to impress as he recorded two blocks and dished out an impressive behind-the-back assist to teammate Branden Carlson for an easy bucket at the rim.

Pelle Larsson also had a solid performance as he scored nine points, all from beyond the arc on 3-4 (75%). Larsson recorded five rebounds and three assists in Thursday night’s contest as well.

Notable Statistic

The Utes didn’t shoot a single free throw against the Bruins on Thursday night. This is something head coach Larry Krystkowiak said he has never experienced, as it’s nearly impossible to go through a game without making a trip to the charity stripe. Additionally, The Bruins only took four free throws all game, so it was a combination of a lack of aggression and the refs just letting them play.

A Look Ahead

The Runnin’ Utes dropped to a 9-11 overall record and 6-10 in the conference with the loss. Utah will continue their home stand as they face the No. 19 USC Trojans on Saturday, Feb. 27 with a tip-off of 6 p.m. MST. The game will be broadcasted on ESPNU and, as always, you can listen to ESPN 700 with Bill Riley on the call.


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