The Utes lost their fourth straight game on Thursday night after dropping a home game against UCLA by a score of 76-61. Things started pretty well for the Utes, as they really battled with UCLA in the opening half, and the offense was really doing a nice job penetrating and finding the open guy under the hoop, or kicking out for a three. It was a game plan that reminded me a lot of the Oregon game, and the Utes were tied at 22-22 with about 6 minutes left, as Utah was trying to slow the game down, and then UCLA started to get rolling. UCLA went on a 13-5 run to end the half to take the halftime lead at 35-27.
Then the second half started, and it was game over quickly for the Utes, as UCLA hit 11 of 13 shots to open the half, and took a 60-39 lead. It didn’t help that the offense couldn’t make some very makable shots around the basket. Multiple guys had the ball around the basket and just couldn’t score to slow down any run by the Bruins. Utah finally caught a bit of fire from deep later in the game, and pulled to within 14 a couple of times, but the defense couldn’t get a stop and UCLA would build the lead back to 20.
The Utes were led by Branden Carlson, who continues to play well with 17 points, six rebounds and four blocks. Riley Battin and Ian Martinez each had 10 points, and Martinez was a really nice spark for chunks of the game, with his athleticism being a major factor in playmaking. Pelle Larsson had nine points, Timmy Allen pitched in eight and Plummer had seven. If Allen and Plummer are going to combine for 15 points, then the Utes are going to be in trouble. Rylan Jones did return to limited action, and had seven assists, but only took one shot in his 17 minutes. And to underscore the game for the Utes, for the first time ever they didn’t attempt a free throw. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that from any team before. Utah did shoot sub-50% on the game at 44%, but it just shows the lack of aggression and sense of urgency by a team when they can’t get to the line and force the action.
Utah did not have a free-throw attempt while UCLA only had four, making it the first time in program history the Utes have not had a free-throw attempt in a game … the 19 assists by Utah is just the fifth time it’s dished out 19 or more in a single-game this season
Utah remains at home as it continues the four-game homestand to wrap up the year when it hosts #19/8 USC this Saturday, Feb. 27, at 6 p.m. on ESPN2. Dave Pasch will have the call while Bill Walton serves as the analyst.