It was going to be a bit of an uphill battle for the Utes, who were suiting up just eight guys against USC on Wednesday night due to various injuries to a bunch of guys, then Branden Carlson went down with a leg injury about halfway through the first half, and things went from bad to worse.
Before Carlson went down, the Utes were down just three points, but the length and athleticism were causing all kinds of problems for the Utes. The Trojans went on a run to take a 22 point lead at one point, and it looked like it was going to be a 30 or 40 point loss with Carlson out and Utah just looking out of sorts. Fortunately, under Craig Smith, this Utah team battled and rallied and made the second half pretty interesting before USC stretched out the lead again to 20 points. Utah shaved the lead down to 14 points at one point in the second half on the shoulders of Both Gach in constant attack mode and then David Jenkins hitting some threes. Gach had 20 of his 27 points in the second half, while Jenkins had 14 of his 21 points in the second half after five made threes. Also in double digits was Riley Battin, who pitched in 10 points of his own.
The good news that can be taken from a game where Carlsen only played about 10 minutes is Gach found his offensive game, and Jenkins found a rhythm from beyond the arc. Hopefully, those guys to build confidence from their performances and carry them forward.
The question now is, how long will Carlson be out? He was in a boot on the bench. With Marco Anthony hopefully getting closer to coming back after his ankle injury, Gabe Madsen hopefully making his debut soon, and Dusan Mahoric’s status still in question, the Utes aren’t just missing a lot of rotation guys but guys that can rebound and protect the paint.
I love the fight from these guys; they need some reinforcements to come back.