Utah Men’s Basketball Drops Double OT Thriller Versus USC


University of Utah freshman guard Ian Martinez(15) in a NCAA Basketball game vs. Arizona State at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Mar. 6, 2021. (Photo by Kevin Cody | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Cole Bagley, Sports Editor


The University of Utah Runnin’ Utes men’s basketball team battled the USC Trojans through two overtimes but came up short, losing in dramatic fashion, 85-91. 

First Half

It was a slow start to begin the second round of the Pac-12 Tournament on Thursday evening as the teams were locked at four through the first four minutes of play. Neither team was shooting the ball particularly well as they were both just 2-6 (33%) to begin the contest.

The poor shooting continued as both teams experienced scoring droughts of over two minutes through the first 10 minutes. Despite the lack of production, the Utes were able to put together a 14-11 lead just before the halfway point. 

Branden Carlson and Ian Martinez helped contribute to the lead. Carlson threw down a one-handed slam and Martinez not only slithered his way through multiple defenders to finish at the rim, but also splashed home a deep three-pointer as well. Martinez led the Utes early with five points on 2-3 (66%) from the floor and a perfect 1-1 from beyond the arc.

But USC finally saw the ball go in the basket consistently as they put together a 9-0 run over a three-minute stretch. They connected on six straight field goals as the Utes struggled to score and committed three turnovers. The Trojans led 24-19 with a little more than five minutes remaining.

As the Trojans were finally getting their footing, Martinez brought the Utes back down to Earth as he knocked down another three. Alfonso Plummer followed that up with a reverse layup and on the ensuing offensive possession, Mikael Jantunen knocked down two from the line to cut the USC lead to just four. 

Over the final minute, both teams struggled to find the bottom of the basket once again and USC walked into the locker room with a 34-29 lead over the Utes.

Second Half

After being held to just four points in the first half, Timmy Allen started off the second half strong as he converted an and-one right in the face of Isaiah White. Allen would make the free throw and cut the lead down to two.

But the familiar face of Utah’s rough second-half starts reared its ugly head as they went nearly three minutes without a basket. While Utah eventually shot their way out of the cold stretch, the Trojans continued to heat up as they hit back-to-back three-pointers and led 51-41 with a little more than 12 minutes left.

Despite their poor start, Utah battled their way back, led by Allen who had 12 points through the first 12 minutes of the second half. Along with Allen, Martinez stepped up big and helped the Utes trim the Trojans’ lead back to just four. 

As the clock ran down under five minutes, the two teams traded blows like a heavy-weight boxing match. Every time one team would hit a big shot, the other would immediately answer and with just a minute to go, it was a one-possession game as USC led 68-67.

While a questionable foul call against Riley Battin put USC at the line and increased the lead to two, on the ensuing possession Martinez drove baseline and committed a careless turnover, giving the ball right back to the Trojans. After a pair of free throws it was a four-point game. 

With less than 30 seconds to go, the Utes inbounded and Allen put up a hook shot to make it 69-71 with 16 seconds left. The Utes quickly fouled, putting USC’s Ethan Anderson at the line for two shots. Anderson missed both, giving the Utes possession with ten seconds remaining. Martinez received the inbounds pass and quickly drove to the basket. The freshman was fouled with 2.3 seconds remaining and with a veteran-like-demeanor knocked down a pair of clutch free throws to force OT.


Again, the two teams traded buckets as the overtime period began. While the defenses were suffocating, both teams found ways to score. With the double-bonus continuing into the extra time, a majority of USC’s points were scored from the line. The Trojans had a slim lead of 78-75 with 1:20 remaining. 

Allen continued to lead by example as he fought his way to basket and laid it in for two, flexing as the ball came down the cylinder. On the other end, the refs made yet another questionable call that put Anderson back at the line for two and this time he knocked them down, giving the Trojans an 80-77 lead. 

 After a timeout, Plummer hoisted one from the parking lot and knocked down a three to tie the game at 80. USC would hold for the last shot but miss, leading to a second overtime period.

Second Overtime 

The exhaustion was evident in the second overtime period as both teams were missing shots and the play was sloppy. USC continued to benefit from whistle-happy referees as they led 85-83 with 1:30 remaining. There were multiple questionable out-of-bounds calls that had the referees at the monitor as they had to make sure possession was awarded to the right team, dragging the game out. 

While it was a valiant effort, the Utes came up short in the final minute as they simply ran out of players. Allen, Jantunen, Martinez, and Battin had all fouled out, and with the majority of their scoring talent on the bench, the Utes couldn’t keep up. USC defeated the short-handed Utes 91-85, advancing to semifinals and officially ending the Runnin’ Utes season. 

Performance of the Game

While he did foul out, freshman Martinez was sensational against the Trojans as he posted a career-high 18 points on 7-10 (70%) from the floor. Many of his buckets were incredibly timely, either waking Utah up from a scoring drought or keeping them in the game. While it’s unfortunate the season came to a close, the program has to be excited with the talent and potential this young star possesses. 

“We had a little discussion this morning, got down and dirty about some stuff and I am not surprised that he [Martinez] bounced back,” head coach Larry Krystkowiak said.”What you saw is what we know Ian can do. His performance was key. We knew the guys were gonna have to step up and make plays and he made some terrific plays putting the ball in the basket. At times he was unstoppable so there’s a lot of confidence in him and I am happy he finished it on a high note. I know he’s excited to get in the weight room and keep working on his game, getting ready for year two.”

Notable Performances

With only four points in the first 20 minutes, Allen came to life for the rest of the game as he finished the evening with 20 points on 6-17 (35%) from the field and a perfect 7-7 from the free throw line. Allen also added a season-high 13 rebounds while dishing out four assists. Being the Utes’ best player, there’s a lot of questions surrounding Allen’s future. Is he now NBA ready or will we see him next winter for another season in the crimson colors? Only time will tell.

“It’s been a long and crazy year, man,” Allen said. “What y’all just seen on that screen against USC sums up what we are. We are not going into analytics or the eye test but you know we are gonna give you everything we got. I am just proud to be a part of it, to be honest. I was convinced we were going to win but obviously it didn’t end up that way. But you know, I sure was proud of the way we approached it and fought. That’s one of the craziest games I have ever been a part of.”

In addition to nailing an absurd and incredibly deep three-pointer to tie the game and send it to overtime, Plummer scored 16 points on 6-15 (40%) from the floor and hit two triples on six attempts (33%). There is no question that Plummer is a deadeye but with eligibility frozen does he return as a super senior or take his chances in the draft? Again, only time will tell.

Notable Statistic

The Utes committed 31 fouls in the game with four players fouling out before the final buzzer sounded. Notably, the Trojans also took 16 free throws in the overtime periods compared to just six for the Utes. It is tough to win when you seem to be battling the opposing team and the whistle.

A Look Ahead

With the loss, the Runnin’ Utes season officially comes to a close as they finish with an overall record of 12-13 and 8-11 in the conference. While the season was an up and down roller coaster which lacked consistency, the program has a lot to be excited about with their young players, especially Martinez and Larsson. Additionally, with eligibility frozen the Utes could bring back every single player who suited up this season, but that decision will remain with the individual players as other programs may try to lure them through the transfer portal and dreams of the NBA fill the heads of guys like Allen and Plummer. 


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