With just a half game separating them in the standings, Sunday’s USC vs. Utah game at the Galen Center was a tough one for the Trojans to see their unbeaten home record end, losing 80-69.
The lowdown: Jakob Poeltl was the story of the first half for Utah, as the Austrian big man had 16 points to lead all scorers. USC struggled from the field and with turnovers, leading to a 40-30 halftime deficit following a Katin Reinhardt turnaround three-pointer at the buzzer.
In the second half, USC responded to an early Utah flurry that saw the Utes extend their lead to a many as 16 points. The Trojans had a 12-3 run, including a pair of three-point shots by Julian Jacobs, and a monster two-hand slam by Chimezie Metu to ignite the Galen Center crowd.
That would be end of the fireworks for Enfield’s team however. Despite pulling within five points, the Trojans couldn’t give over the hump and Poeltl came back to the forefront for the Utes. The center scored eight of the next 10 Utah points to start a run 19-9 run to push their lead back to as many as 15 points with under eight minutes to play.
From then on, the Utes and Trojans traded points, with USC struggling to cut the lead despite hitting on 10 of 17 shots from three-point range. It ended with Utah claiming an 80-69 win.
Jordan McLaughlin led the Trojans with 29 points, including hitting on 4 of 5 from long distance. Jacobs added 17 points of his own, while Reinhardt’s only three points were attributed to his first half buzzer beater.
The fallout: With the loss, the Trojans fall to 8-6 in Pac-12 play and remain in search of their milestone 20th win of the season. The loss isn’t detrimental to their postseason resume given how strong the Utes have been of late, but it all but ends USC’s outside chances of claiming one of the top seeds in the Pac-12 Tournament.
At 10-5, Utah sits just a half game back of the conference’s class, Arizona and Oregon. USC will be no higher than tied for fourth come Monday morning, as 8-5 Cal travels to Pullman to play Washington State tonight.
Player of the game: Jakob Poeltl, the 7-footer out of Vienna, had one of the best games of his career for the Utes. He finished with 29 points and 13 rebounds, as USC had no answers for him.
Stat of the game: Despite the 11-point loss, the Trojans were 10-of-17 (58.8 percent) from three-point range, one of their best deep shooting displays of the season.
Next on tap: The Trojans now prep for their annual trip up north, where they’ll play Stanford on Thursday night, followed by Cal next Sunday.