Utah clinched a three seed in the PAC-12 tournament in the final regular season game of the season, blowing past UCLA, 81-92. In an ironic contrast to the two teams first meeting of the season, UCLA lead by two in the opening seconds before Utah stole the lead with an early three point jumper from Sedrick Barefield and never looked back, leading as much as 27 at on point. The Runnin’ Utes now turn their attention to the postseason, starting Thursday night in Vegas.
It was raining threes in the Huntsman Center, as the Utes combined for 17 shots made from deep, with Sedrick Barefield accounting for five shots, and Parker Van Dyke and Donnie Tillman good for four each. As whole, Utah was only made 45.6 of their attempts, 1.9% worse than UCLA, but the three point circus was simply too much for the Bruins to keep pace with, as their on-court rival was only able to drain six of their 20 attempts from deep.
26 of Utah’s 37 rebounds came on the defensive side of the court, with Donnie Tillman accounting for a team-high five defensive boards. Utah’s defense successfully contained the Bruins, who failed to find a single player who was able to take over offensively and lead the change. Sophomore guard Kris Wilkes managed 20 points in the effort, however nine of those points came off of free throws.
Once again, Larry Krystowiak and his staff have exceed pre-season expectations, and even tonight’s expectations, beating the six point spread given by Vegas. In all, the game plan against the Bruins was about as flawlessly executed as one could ask for, however in the closing three minutes, Utah seemed to take their foot off the gas a little early, allowing the Bruins to crawl back to within nine with 2:50 left.
With a first round bye secured, Utah has a chance make some noise in the conference tournament next week. Washington claimed the regular season championship, however the Huskies are by no means untouchable, leaving a wide-open field to clinch a spot in the big dance. Utah is just as good as anyone else in the PAC-12 and the now have a chance to prove it.