Runnin’ Utes’ Upset Bid Rims Out Against No. 9 UCLA


Jack Gambassi

Utah basketball’s Dusan Mahorcic (#21) in the matchup against the UCLA Bruins at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ethan Pearce, Sports Editor


The University of Utah men’s basketball team suffered a close loss to No. 9 UCLA on Thursday night. Utah played tough and hung with the Bruins all night, but ultimately missed two game-tying three pointers at the buzzer to go home empty. It was their seventh straight loss.

UCLA started the game with seven quick points before Utah scored a basket. At the first timeout, it was 12-3 UCLA. Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez Jr. had fast starts, combining to score UCLA’s first 15 points of the game. They’re both NBA Draft prospects, and for good reason.

Jaxon Brenchley gave the Utes a jolt of energy off the bench to keep them in it early. He had six quick points on a three and then an and-one layup to pull Utah within one nearly halfway through the first half. 

Utah began the game a hot 5-8 from three, allowing them to hang right with UCLA for a lot of the first half. It was back and forth down the stretch to halftime, with the Utes taking the lead into the break, 32-31. Juzang carried the Bruins with 18 of their 31 points in the first half. Outside of him, UCLA shot 3-16.

Utah and UCLA continued to go back and forth. It was a tough, grindy game. The Utes played great defense for a long stretch in the second half. They hit enough shots to stay in the game, and forced the Bruins into a lot of bad shots. 

The Utes were desperate for this game, and it showed in their effort. They were playing hard on defense, diving for loose balls and rebounds, communicating well, and sharing the ball. This was by far the best they’ve looked this year, especially since starting Pac-12 play. 

Utah found themselves down three points with under a minute to play. Both Gach got to the line and hit one of two free throws to put the score at 60-58. Gach was called for an offensive foul after Utah got the ball back, forcing them to foul Bruins guard Tyger Campbell with 25 seconds remaining. He hit one out of the two free throws. 61-58. Utah would get the ball back, down three, with the chance for the final shot.

Gabe Madsen rimmed out a heavily contested corner three-pointer attempt. An offensive rebound gave Lazar Stefanovic another chance, and his shot also rimmed out.

“I don’t shoot the ball if I don’t think it’s gonna go in,” Stefanovic said.

A very tough finish for the Utes gave them their seventh consecutive loss, with No. 16 USC on deck for Saturday.

“I’m unbelievably proud of our kids,” said head coach Craig Smith. “We gave ourselves every opportunity to win. I thought our guys played with a tremendous spirit.”

This team gave everything they had, and ultimately came up just shy of what would have been a signature upset. This offered a glimpse at what this team can be when they’re firing on all cylinders: staunch defensively, good three-point shooting and nice ball movement. 

Both Smith and Stefanovic were complimentary of the fans and the energy they brought to the Huntsman Center.

“We play much better with their support,” Stefanovic said.

Utah is improving but they need to put a win on the board. They’ll have another chance against a top 20 team on Saturday, and they will be ready for the opportunity.

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