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Utah Sluggish in Loss at UCLA 59-69

UCLA point guard Bryce Alford scored 14 points and dished out a game-high seven assists as his Bruins took down the No. 11 Utes 69-59 in Pauley Pavilion.
UCLA point guard Bryce Alford scored 14 points and dished out a game-high seven assists as his Bruins took down the No. 11 Utes 69-59 in Pauley Pavilion.
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

As they have been want to do on the road, the Runnin' Utes came out flat and with little urgency in Pauley Pavilion, dropping a 59-69 conference game to UCLA. The No. 11 team in the country got into a three-point hole at the half and then couldn't score for over seven minutes of the second period, turning a close game into a route.

UCLA was led by guard Norman Powell with 23 points (on 9-of-16 shooting, 5-of-6 from the free throw line), four rebounds, and two steals. Starting point guard Bryce Alford pitched in 14 points and a game-high seven assists, and guard Isaac Hamilton added 11 points, four rebounds, and three assists.

Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak's "little warrior" Brandon Taylor refused to give up, however, and continued to play hard. His three-pointer at the 12:42 mark of the second half stopped the bleeding, as UCLA went on a 12-point run with the Utes clanking shots from everywhere on the floor. After Taylor dropped his three, he started to heat up, making a layup on a steal and runout.

Taylor ended the night with 14 points, five assists, but also the three turnovers. Fellow running mate Delon Wright finished with 15 points (on 6-of-9 shooting) but didn't really start attacking the basket until the game was almost decided. Wright also chipped in six rebounds and two assists.

Dakarai Tucker and Jakob Poeltl contributed eight points apiece. Poeltl hit a perfect 4-for-4 from the field, but didn't play much in the latter stages of the second half.

But, ultimately, Utah couldn't get out of their own way. The Utes finished the game with 14 turnovers (to just six by UCLA), four by starting guard Wright alone. In fact, Utah's starting guards combined for half of the team's turnover total. On the other end, UCLA turned the Utah mistakes into points, finishing with an 18-12 edge in points of turnovers. Utah, normally a quick-handed bunch, managed just two steals the entire game to eight for UCLA.

Utah out-shot the Bruins, but it wasn't a matter of percentages this game. In this game, where the shots were being made was the biggest factor. To protect its lack of depth, UCLA threw a 3-2 zone at the Utes, which did its damage. Bruins head coach Steve Alford put forward Kevon Looney out near the three-point line to disrupt the best three-point shooting team in the Pac-12, and he did just that. While UCLA attacked the lane, Utah settled for three-point jumpers, hitting just 31.8 percent on the night (28.6 percent in the second half). UCLA's more aggressive posture led to the Bruins shooting 24 free throws (making 18, 75 percent by one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the league) to just nine for Utah.

With UCLA leading by as many as 15 points, Utah threw on a full court press; however, it turned out to be too little too late. Utah would cut the lead to seven points but just couldn't make enough plays (or shots) to get over the hump. With the clock against them, Utah was forced to foul to gain possessions, and UCLA was making their free throws. Game over.

Utah drops to 16-4 overall, 6-2 in conference play. Most importantly, Utah dropped into a tie with Stanford for second place, losing their grip on conference leading Arizona. Utah will try to bounce back Sunday at 12:30 MT at USC. The Trojans are coming off a 4-point, triple overtime loss to Colorado.