As has so often been the case of late vs. the Buffaloes, No. 19 USC lost a road game in Colorado on Thursday night. It was the Trojans’ sixth setback in a row against the Buffaloes over the past three seasons.
With the conference and NCAA tournaments quickly approaching, that slip-up was about the last one USC can afford in order to achieve the goal of winning a regular-season conference title. The Trojans just lost their grip on the top spot in the conference, and they have only three games left on their conference slate.
If the Trojans (19-5, 13-4 Pac-12) can get by Utah on Saturday in Salt Lake City and Stanford at home on Wednesday, they’ll have a chance to leap over UCLA (13-3 in conference) in their regular-season finale.
USC is looking for its first regular-season championship since they were co-champs in 1984-85. It’s been since 1960-61 that they’ve won an outright regular-season title.
The Bruins took a half-game lead with a 76-61 thumping of Utah on Thursday.
USC has dropped two of its last three games after winning 13 of their previous 14. USC only shot 38.3 percent against Colorado and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award finalist Evan Mobley was limited to 13 points.
“Doesn’t matter if we lose by one point or 18 — we deserved what we got tonight,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “They played better than us.”
USC got by Utah easily on Jan. 2, winning 64-46 at home. The Utes come into this one having lost four straight.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to impose our will defensively and set the tone defensively,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, whose team is 10th place in Pac-12 play. “We’re not an outscoring-minded team, and I thought we lost that edge a little bit and then (UCLA) stepped up and players made some plays.”
Utah (9-11, 6-10) hopes forward Mikael Jantunen will be back after he’s missed time due to COVID-19 protocols. The Utes could also use a better game from their leading scorer Timmy Allen (16.8 points per game), who only scored eight vs. UCLA. They also didn’t go to the free-throw line one time for the first time in school history.
“We did some things that were positive: low-turnover game (eight), battled even on the glass (UCLA outrebounded Utah 32-26), and shared the ball (19 assists on 26 field goals),” Krystkowiak said. “We just need to make more shots and I thought we had a little bit of give-up in us, which can’t be part of our identity.”
–Field Level Media