Dakarai Tucker made four 3-pointers in Thursday's win.
January 16, 2014
SALT LAKE CITY - Delon Wright scored 22 points, collected six rebounds, six steals and five assists to lift Utah to an 84-66 victory over USC on Thursday night.
"We had some guys who were embarrassed with the Washington trip," head coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "They came back from the Pullman trip and wanted to get shots up. I think it's a misconception that your effort is judged by how you play defensively. We needed to do that on offense. I was very pleased with how many extra passes we made. Dakarai was able to knock down 3's and Delon stepped up and made his free throws."
Pe'Shon Howard led USC with 16 points and J.T. Terrell chipped in 12. It wasn't enough to prevent the Trojans (9-8, 0-4) from losing their fourth straight game in Pac-12 play.
USC lost despite shooting 50 percent (25-of-50) from the field. Utah matched the Trojans by shooting 49.2 percent (30-of-61) from the field. The Utes gained an advantage by also forcing 16 turnovers - including eight steals - and had a 27-14 edge in points off turnovers.
"We played fairly hard," USC head coach Andy Enfeld said. "We couldn't finish. It seemed like we couldn't finish in the lane in the second half. We had a couple crucial turnovers, missed some layups. Defensively, they did a great job driving the ball. Delon Wright really put us in a bind. He drove the ball really well, got to foul line 11 times. I thought Utah played a good game."
"Turnovers were huge," Krystkowiak said. "We got so many deflections and were able to get out in transition. Delon was able to get his hands in the passing lanes and really created some easy baskets for us."
Utah broke open a close game early in the second half behind hot shooting from Tucker and Wright. The Utes used a 14-4 run to take control. Tucker sparked the run with a 3-pointer on Utah's opening possession of the half. Wright capped it by converting a three-point play that gave Utah a 52-40 lead with 16:15 remaining.
"A couple guys passed up good shots to get great shots," Krystkowiak added. "That's contagious and it's been missing. We had a bunch of in-between looks and our guys were willing to make those passes. That certainly helps our efficiency."
USC did not go away. The Trojans chipped away at the lead and cut their deficit to five when Omar Oraby scored a layup to make it 60-55. Then Wright threw the hammer down and Utah ran away for good.
Wright fueled a decisive 17-2 run for Utah. He stole the ball from Oraby on consecutive possessions and turned each one into a layup to push the Utes' lead back to double digits. When Dallin Bachynski capped the run with a dunk, Utah held a 77-57 lead with 4:51 remaining.
USC found ways to score in the paint throughout the first half. The Trojans slashed to the rim repeatedly while forcing Utah to settle for jump shots. They shot 53.8 percent (14-of-26) from the field before halftime and outscored the Utes 22-18 in the paint.
"Oraby was pretty dang good in the post and we wanted to double team him right from the jump," Krystkowiak said. "He is so good at getting position that if he gets it down low, he scores. Then their other players got looks because we were so focused on him. They were knocking things down."
For a while, it looked like that would be the exact formula USC needed to take control of the game before halftime.
USC twice carved out a four-point lead, going up 17-13 the second time on Oraby's jumper. The Utes battled back, taking a one-point lead on a Loveridge 3-pointer. But the Trojans answered with a 7-0 run, which culminated in a dunk from Jacobs and a 24-18 USC lead with 8:04 remaining in the half.
Utah did not stay down for long. The Utes charged back in front on the strength of a 12-1 run. They retook a 30-25 lead with 4:19 left before halftime on back-to-back corner 3-pointers from Tucker.
"I was just shooting with confidence," Tucker said. "That was one of my goals for this game was to shoot with confidence. After the past couple of games I have just been working on coming into the gym and getting shots up. The right corner was my spot in high school."
Utah led by as much seven before halftime, going up 36-29 on Mario Kovacevic's tip-in basket with 1:39 left. The Trojans rallied to cut the deficit down in the final minute and closed within 38-36 when Byron Wesley scored a layup with 16 seconds remaining in the half.
The Utes will honor their championship teams from the 1990's this Saturday during halftime of their contest against UCLA. Utah and the Bruins tip off at 2 p.m. on Fox Sports 1.