A late run gave USC basketball a chance at upsetting No. 12 Utah, but the Trojans fell short for the third time against the Utes, 80-72.
The lowdown: Julian Jacobs ran the show early for the Trojans, putting up USC’s first six points and a slam dunk.
Emphasis on stopping Jakob Poeltl kept the big man quiet to start while USC enjoyed contributions from the Katin Reinhardt and Jordan McLaughlin.
However, the focus on Poeltl opened up room for others in the Ute line up and the Utes opened things up late in the first half. Brandon Taylor’s three-pointer gave Utah a six-point lead with under two minutes to go. Then Kyle Kuzma’s lay up made the deficit eight as the Trojans’ shots failed to fall.
The second half began with McLaughlin taking the reins and scoring USC’s first ten points. However, with the Utes shooting better than 60% from the field for most of the game, thanks in part to the passing of Poeltl on the double team, the Trojans found it difficult to cut the lead.
McLaughlin’s drive with under six minutes to play brought USC within six points. He later took it to the hole twice in a row to put the Trojans within two.
However, Taylor pulled up for a long three pointer to give Utah a decided advantage going into the final minute.
The takeaway: USC’s youth continued to get the best of them as they failed to take their chances against the Utes.
Though Poeltl did not dominate the game as much as he did in their last meeting, the necessity of dealing with his presence helped the Utes get the best of the Trojan defense.
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Utah shot 60% from the field on the night. They also hit on 45% of their free throw attempts.
On the other side of things, USC did not shoot particularly poorly, with three players in double figures. However, they were unable to come up with points in the key moments when Utah proved vulnerable.
Player of the game: Jordan McLaughlin; 24 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist
Stat of the game: Utah had 21 assists to USC’s 9.
Next on tap: USC awaits the decision from the NCAA Tournament selection committee on whether or not they go dancing and who they will face.