At this point of the season, the amount of games you play is determined by if you win or lose, and for Utah they kicked off post season play in style, by beating USC 80-72 in the Pac-12 quarterfinals. Utah was led by Kyle Kuzma's 23 points on 11-of-12 shooting from the floor, and was the recipient of many perfect passes from Jakob Poeltl. Speaking of the big man, Poeltl was tied with Lorenzo Bonam with 14 points, but he also pitched in 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Bonam did much of his damage early on, as he led the Utes to their first 10 points, including a great buzzer beater three. Jordan Loveridge had 13 points, and was big down the stretch hitting free throws. J-Love also had 6 beautiful assists on the night, really feeding the post guys.
USC was led by Jordan Mclaughlin's 24 points, while Julian Jacobs pitched in 16 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. Katin Reinhardt had 13 points of his own, with 3-of-7 from deep.
Utah didn't start the game particularly well, as they missed some easy shots early on in the game. Their defense wasn't that great either, as USC had a personal layup line for much of the first half, partially for Jacobs, as he was relentless attacking the paint. In the latter half of the first half, Utah finally started to put their foot down and had a 9-0 run to close the half to take a 41-33 lead.
The second half was pretty much dictated by Utah, as they kept USC at bay, up until the last 5 minutes of the game. USC started to make a run and cut Utah's lead to 3 with about 1:30 remaining in the game when Brandon Taylor did this:
From that point on, Utah was in complete control of the game, like they were most of the night.
USC was a scary opponent for me, as they can fill it up quickly, but it will only get harder for the Utes, as their next opponent will either be Oregon State or Cal. If it's Cal, which I expect, that will be a major challenge for Utah, as Cal has a ton of young talent, as we've seen.
Utah will take on one of those two teams tomorrow night for the right to advance to the Pac-12 championship.