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Runnin' Utes Put Down Trojan Uprising 79-55

In the first Pac-12 game of the season for both teams, Utah was too big, too talented, and too disciplined for the visitors from USC.

Utah guard Delon Wright recorded a double-double in the Utes conference opening win over USC.
Utah guard Delon Wright recorded a double-double in the Utes conference opening win over USC.
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 10 Runnin' Utes have risen to the top of the Pac-12 and showed it tonight, beating USC 79-55. Utah's length was too much for the quick but not big Trojans. Utah's discipline was too much for the up and down team from Southern California. And Utah's talent and depth (something that has been painstakingly accumulated by Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak) was too much for USC head coach Andy Enfield's young team.

In short, Utah was not just the ranked team on the floor, but the Utes were also simply the better team on the floor. Top 10 teams are expected to beat lesser competition soundly, and Krystkowiak's Runnin' Utes did exactly that. Utah shot 56.9 percent from the field to USC's 38.5. The Utes shot a scorching 57.9 percent from downtown (11-of-19) to just 23.1 percent for the Trojans. Even as poorly as Utah shot from the free throw line (50 percent on 10-of-20), USC shot worse at 40 percent.

Impact freshman are the norm, not the exception in the Pac-12. Trojans freshman point guard Jordan McLaughlin, a highly regarded recruit who was leading USC at 13.3 points per game, was held to just six points on 3-of-10 shooting (0-for-2 from deep). Utah's defense did a number on McLaughlin, who came into the game averaging 5.2 assists per game and managed just two.

On the other side of the court, Utah freshman Brekkott Chapman had a little better game, scoring eight points (on 3-of-4 shooting, 1-for-1 from behind the three-point line. Chapman also pulled down four rebounds.

But there is no substitute for experience, and Utah's was too much for USC. Forward Jordan Loveridge led the Utes with 14 points, his second straight game high after missing seven games recovering from minor knee surgery. But JLove also pitched in six rebounds and two assists. The junior from West Jordan, Utah has been exactly as expected, a reliable scorer who can stretch the defense and open driving lanes for guard Delon Wright and interior spacing for center Jakob Poeltl.

Guards Wright and Brandon Taylor tossed in 11 apiece, and Wright dished out 10 assists for a double-double on the night. Taylor recorded five defensive rebounds and shot 75 percent (3-of-4) from three-point range.

Joining the big three in double figures was reserve guard Dakarai Tucker who scored 10 off the bench on 4-of-8 shooting. Tucker went 2-of-6 from behind the arc, but showed some versatility to his game. In the second half, he pump faked a three-pointer from the left baseline, drove toward the basket, raised and dropped in a soft eight to 10 footer.

For another game, Austrian 7-footer Poeltl was held below his scoring and rebounding averages, logging just four points and five rebounds. Poeltl did have a block but was limited because of foul trouble in both halves of play. The Huntsman Center crowd didn't like a couple of those calls, especially the two quick fouls to start the second half.

Forward Chris Reyes scored six points, but pulled down a game-high nine rebounds and blocked two shots. While Chapman continues to be right on Reyes' heels for the starting power forward spot, Reyes continues to pound the glass and make his presence felt on the defensive end.

For USC, forwards Nikola Jovanovic and Malik Martin both tossed in 14 points and cleared six rebounds. And though the Trojans did get 10 off the bench from one-time Utah commit Julian Jacobs, no other starter scored more than six. The Utes even held 6-6 guard Katin Reinhardt to just five points, less than half of his 10.8 points per game average. Utah blanked 6.5 points per game starter Elijah Stewart.

Utah out-rebounded the smaller Trojans 38-32. The Utes also had 19 assists to 11 for USC and notched six blocks to the Trojans' three.

No. 10 Utah improves their season record to 11-2, 1-0 in the Pac-12. The win over USC also gives them a winning record in the series (18-17). Dating back to last season, Utah is on a four-game winning streak against the Trojans.

Next up for the Utes is a struggling UCLA squad that lost to Colorado 62-56 in Boulder to open the conference slate. If Utah can take care of the Bruins, they'll finish up the three-game home stand with the Buffs who might be playing without center Josh Scott.