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Branden Carlson’s Last Shot Lifts Utah Men’s Basketball Past UCLA

A tightly contested game throughout, the match saw a perfect clash of offense and defense before Branden Carlson shot the Utes to victory.
Utah+center+Branden+Carlson+%2835%29+dunks+versus+the+Arizona+Wildcats+at+the+Jon+M.+Huntsman+Center+in+Salt+Lake+City+on+Thursday%2C+Feb.+8%2C+2024.+%28Photo+by+Xiangyao+%E2%80%9CAxe%E2%80%9D+Tang+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29
Xiangyao Tang
Utah center Branden Carlson (35) dunks versus the Arizona Wildcats at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

Utah Men’s Basketball (16-10, 7-8) came into Sunday’s game against the UCLA Bruins (14-12, 9-6) on a three-game losing streak, looking to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive. Defense was the key in this game, as both teams could not separate themselves from each other throughout the entirety of the outing. Utah trailed by two at halftime, but a big second half by Branden Carlson and Deivon Smith helped lift Utah past a UCLA team that had six wins in a row heading into this matchup.

First Half

The first half was tightly contested throughout, as both teams could not gain any momentum on the offensive side of the ball. The defenses for both Utah and UCLA were stellar, as neither team was getting any easy looks at the rim. The 3-point shooting for the Utes kept them in this game as UCLA attempted to pull away late in the first half. Utah trailed 19-26 with 4:55 left to go in the half, but a 15-10 run in the final five minutes narrowed the game to just two points to close out the first half. Utah would head into the locker room trailing 34-36 with plenty of work to do in the second half to close this game out.

Branden Carlson led the Utes in the first half, scoring nine points and knocking down two big 3-pointers when the Utes desperately needed a bucket. Smith was close behind with eight first-half points, while Gabe Madsen poured in six of his own to round out the majority of the Utah first-half scoring.

Defensively, Utah stayed in their man-to-man while double-teaming UCLA star forward, Adem Bona, on almost every possession. The Utes defense helped keep pace with a UCLA team that has played some of the best defense in the country in the past six games. UCLA has given up 80 points just once this season, meaning Utah would have to match that defensive intensity in the second half if they wanted to come away with their first road conference win of the year.

Second Half

The second half started well for Utah, as they took a 42-38 lead thanks to 3-pointers from Madsen and Branden Carlson. UCLA, however, had an answer every time Utah made a run and continued to apply the pressure defensively.

At the 8:51 mark of the second half, a UCLA layup gave the Bruins a six-point lead, but the Utes continued to fight valiantly, putting together a 7-0 run and subsequently taking the lead on a Smith and-one layup. UCLA seemingly always had an answer for the Utah scoring bursts as they put together a run of their own, taking a four-point lead with just 4:26 remaining.

The final 5 minutes were extremely entertaining as both teams exchanged buckets back and forth. With just 0:06 remaining, a UCLA mid-range jumper gave the Bruins a one-point lead, allowing Utah one more opportunity to close this game out and head back to Salt Lake City with a massive road win.

Ben Carlson inbounded the ball to Branden Carlson, who passed to Smith as he streaked down the court with his blazing speed. Smith raced to the basket and threw up a contested layup, which was partially blocked by a UCLA defender. Thankfully for Utah, Branden Carlson was in perfect position for the rebound and was able to tip it in at the last second to give Utah the massive win, 70-69.

Utes Stuffing the State Sheet

Smith continued to play at an extremely high level, putting up 17 points and adding 10 assists to secure the double-double. Branden Carlson matched Smith with 17 points of his own while adding 7 rebounds, including the crucial rebound, and put back to win the game. Madsen and Cole Bajema each scored 11 points, while Keba Keita chipped in 9 to round out the Utah scoring.

What’s next for the Utes?

Utah will head to Boulder, Colorado, to take on the Colorado Buffaloes at 7:00 p.m. MST on Saturday, Feb. 24. This is another must-win road game for Utah as they look to stay relevant in the NCAA tournament picture. Catch all the action on the PAC-12 network this Saturday.

 

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@Kylegarr23

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About the Contributors
Kyle Garrison, Sports Writer
Kyle garrison grew up in Spring Lake, Michigan. He moved to Salt Lake City to pursue a degree in communications with an emphasis in journalism. Kyle plans on pursuing broadcast journalism as a career once graduating from the University of Utah. Kyle started with the Chronicle this fall and has loved every minute of working with the team.
Xiangyao Tang, Photo Director
Axe is a photographer and the photo director of the Daily Utah Chronicle. He is from China and is a senior majoring in computer science and minoring in digital photography. Axe joined the Chronicle in August of 2021. In addition to his position at the Chrony, he is also a photo intern for University of Utah Athletics. When he's not writing code, you will find him rock climbing, camping, skiing or hiking with his camera.

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