Utah holds off late run beats USC 79 71
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Too many weapons to defend.
That was the reason a hot-shooting Utah team was able to keep Southern California in the Pac-12 cellar Thursday night, USC coach Andy Enfield said.
"An elite driver," Enfield called Delon Wright, who had 20 points and nine rebounds to lead Utah to a 79-71 victory in Galen Center.
The win, Utah's third straight, moves the Utes (17-7, 6-6) into a tie for seventh in the conference with Washington. For the Trojans (10-14, 1-10), it was their fifth straight loss and 10th in their last 11 games -- all in the Pac-12.
"They have a very good system," Enfield said. "Two elite drivers and two excellent shooters." Wright was one of those drivers and Jordan Loveridge the other.
Loveridge had 19 points including the biggest basket of the game, a 3-pointer with a hand in his face as the shot clock expired for a 76-68 lead with 1:32 left.
"Utah made a great shot," Enfield said, "but this game is about more than one shot."
In addition to Wright and Loveridge, Utah called on its shooters, Dakarai Tucker and Brandon Taylor, who combined for 22 points on 6-of-10 3-point shooting. As a team, Utah was 10 of 19 from 3-point range compared to 5 of 16 for USC.
"They are tough to defend," Enfield said.
Byron Wesley, whose 20 points led the Trojans, agreed.
For Wright, Tucker and Taylor, it was a triumphant return to their hometown.
But Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak wasn't all that upbeat about his team's play. "Mindless turnovers were a thorn in our side," he said of a bad spell in the first half. "A win feels great ... we just got careless at times."
Then again, the Utes weren't careless in the first 7:06 of the second half when they broke the game open for a 56-39 lead on 8-of-11 shooting, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range. The Utes never trailed in the second half.
USC made a 23-11 run to close to within 71-67 on a Nikola Jovanovic jumper with 3:15 remaining. But that was as close as the Trojans could get.
USC looked determined to end its losing ways, jumping out to a 21-14 lead in the first 10 minutes. A win here would have pushed the Trojans past Washington State (2-10) into 11th place.
But Wright led a 14-2 run that turned the momentum and gave Utah a 36-31 halftime lead.
USC went with a new starting lineup featuring two players who had yet to start a game this season -- D.J. Haley and Brendyn Taylor -- and Strahinj Gavrilovic, who had started just once. It helped for a while and gave the Trojans nine first-half scorers. But the trio ultimately contributed just seven points in 39 total minutes played.
The biggest pick-me-up for the Trojans may have been freshman guard Kahlil Dukes, who Enfield called, "our best shooter." With 10 points In just his 12th game of the season, he was the only Trojan other than Wesley in double figures and had two of USC's five three-pointers.