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Utah basketball: Streakin' Runnin' Utes set to face USC Saturday

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah senior David Collette has been a sharpshooter during the Utes’ five-game winning streak. The center has made 35-of-40 shots from the field. He was 9 of 9 from the field and scored a team-high 21 points in Thursday’s 84-78 win over UCLA. The performance upped his shooting percentage to a whopping 87.5 percent during Utah’s recent run of success.

“What am I supposed to say? I work on it every day. It’s my shot,” said Collette, who added that it goes in. “I’m just having fun out there, just going out and playing,” he said. “It’s working out great. I’ve been having a heck of a run. It’s been awesome for me.”

Collette’s efforts have put the Utes (18-9, 10-6) into prime position for a first-round bye in next month’s Pac-12 tournament and NCAA tourney consideration.

“I think he’s really focused,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, who added that it’s part of the senior group and a dedication to what the team wants to accomplish.

Getting past UCLA was huge according to Collette.

“It was a big one for us if we wanted to get in — in our eyes,” he said. “It’s a good first game and we’ve got to finish it off now. We’ve still got two left.” The first of which is Saturday (12:30 p.m., P12N) against USC (20-9, 11-5) in the Huntsman Center. The Trojans are currently in second place in the Pac-12, one game ahead of the Utes and UCLA.

“We’re in a position to kind of control our own destiny,” Krystkowiak said.

The big picture, though, is a work in progress. Krystkowiak noted that the doesn’t know how the rest of the regular season (USC, Colorado) will play out. Same goes for the conference tournament in Vegas.

“The whole concept that we’re talking about is controlling what we can control and that was this game and getting the win,” Krystkowiak said.

USC comes to town on a three-game win streak. The Trojans are led by junior forward Chimezie Metu (16 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and senior guard Jordan McLaughlin (12.4 ppg, 7.7 apg). They defeated Utah 84-67 last month in Los Angeles.

Utah, meanwhile, is coming off a solid showing against UCLA. Collette wasn’t the only effective weapon that night. Junior guard Parker Van Dyke hit two key 3-pointers late in the game and scored a career-high 18 points. Senior guard Justin Bibbins posted a double-double with17 points and 10 assists.

“We just let a couple of guys get away from us and we just can't defend that way,” said UCLA coach Steve Alford.

USC (20-9, 11-5) at Utah (18-9, 10-6)

Huntsman Center

Saturday, 12:30 p.m.

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Radio: ESPN 700AM


Twitter: @DirkFacer