We saw a different Utah team on Sunday afternoon against USC. A team that had much more urgency, effort, and focus. It started early for the Utes, as they jumped out to a quick 9-3 lead over USC. Utah would build a 10 point lead over the Trojans, before USC went on a run of their own to take a lead. Utah was able to stave off the run by USC and take back a 20-19 lead. While Utah did suffer from a drought in the first half, they didn’t let go of the rope and battled, which we haven’t seen in the last week or so. Utah ended the first half on a strong note with some free throws from Alphonso Plummer and a three by Jaxon Brenchley and Rylan Jones to take a 6 point lead at half.
Utah opened the second half in a similar fashion as the first, with an 8-2 run, which was opened by an impressive steal and lob from Both Gach to Timmy Allen. Utah was able to build a 15 point half time lead, at 45-30, but it was a bit of a game of cat and mouse for the rest of the game. Utah would build their lead, and USC would pull them back to within a possession or two. Whenever the Trojans would claw back into the game, either Plummer, Allen or Mikael Jantunen would make a play to build the lead again. Jantunen scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half, and Allen had 13 of his 21 points in the closing half. Plummer was arguably the breakout player of the game, as he scored a career high 18 points, and was lethal from three hitting five threes. Plummer has really caught on of late with his shooting, and that’s something he’s going to need to continue as the season comes to a close. Brandon Carlson also had a great game, in his limited action due to foul trouble. He had 11 points and 8 rebounds.
The concern for the Utes right now is Jones, who went down late in the game with a leg injury and didn’t return. If he misses any time, that could spell serious trouble for the Utes. We won’t know for certain if that’s the case until next week when the Utes take their final road trip of the season to the Bay Area schools.
Here are some post game quotes for the Utes:
Head Coach Larry Krystkowiak
Coach K on Alfonso and Mickey playing great minutes during today’s game…
“I thought Fons had a terrific weekend. When you look at his numbers, he’s playing with a lot of confidence and you’ve been watching us recently we’ve been having a hard time putting the ball in the basket so those three’s add up really fast and he’s not afraid to shoot them. I think we have a few guys that are a little bit hesitant right now so that was great, his effort was there and Mickey’s always going to bring effort to the game. Both of the games were a little gritty when you get those big bodies out there and we needed some of that size and the energy was key I thought.”
Coach K on Rylan doing some dirty work taking charges throughout the game…
“He took three charges tonight and that’s just a warrior play. Jeff Van Gundy was reading something about it in a book earlier this afternoon and it talks about players being so enamored with the flash, dazzle, style points, the dunking and all of that. But, it’s such a valuable asset when you’ve got somebody who’s willing to give his body up. I’ve always said that I think a charge is the best play in basketball. It’s a momentum play, it’s obviously a foul and you only get five of them, and you get the ball. He’s been doing it for a lot of years and you are never going to ask him to not do it because he’s really good at it. I love it and it’s an integral part of our defense. Not just some of those charges that he gets but it’s also something that’s on the opposing scouting report. You can’t just go in there and I think that takes a little bit of the vigor out of the opposition knowing that, even if it’s a non-contact play, at least they’re aware of it and he does a really good job with his instincts.”
Junior Guard #25 Alfonso Plummer
On the team’s mindset when Rylan went down with three minutes left and still a close game?
“I don’t know because he’s got a strong heart. He always fights it. Doesn’t matter if he got injured in the beginning or middle of the game. He always tries to bounce back and help the team so; we just believe he is going to stand up and keep playing because he is a warrior. I don’t know his status but I hope he gets better soon.”