SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s winning ways have come to a halt. An abrupt halt.
USC handed the Utes a 74-58 setback in the Huntsman Center Saturday afternoon.
The loss was Utah’s first since Feb. 2 and snapped a five-game win streak, dropping the Utes to 18-10 overall and 10-7 in Pac-12 play. USC improved to 21-9 and 12-5.
“I don’t know that we had a lot of gas in our tank,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said after noting that the Utes were without two contributors — Sedrick Barefield (chest injury) and Jayce Johnson (three minutes in his comeback from a foot injury) — plus playing in an afternoon game after a late win over UCLA on Thursday.
Krystkowiak made a few other things clear. He didn’t want to discredit the effort USC gave coming into Utah’s building. He also didn’t want to be the guy who karate-chopped a clipboard while blowing “a gasket out on the court for some stuff and be a crybaby.”
Krystkowiak acknowledged that it all didn’t fit Utah’s timing very well as far as playing some elite teams back-to-back.
“I felt like we were a little bit gassed,” he said. “But I don’t want to take any of the credit away from USC. They made some big-time plays.”
The Utes, simply put, did not.
“It was a little bit of a perfect storm,” Krystkowiak said. “We missed five layups in the first half. You can’t miss layups, not at this level of big boy basketball.”
Especially, he added, against a team that leads the Pac-12 in forced turnovers.
There were other variables as well. USC had decisive edges in points off turnovers (22-9) and second-chance points (12-4). The Trojans also outscored the Utes in the paint (34-30), on fast breaks (8-4) and off the bench (31-15).
“We didn’t bring it today. We didn’t play our best, and a lot of it was self-inflicted wounds today. We had a lot of turnovers that were careless,” said senior forward Tyler Rawson, who also noted that several defensive assignments were missed.
USC wound up shooting 50.9 percent (29 of 57) from the field. Chimezie Metu and Jordan Usher each finished with 14 points for the Trojans.
Utah finished with 40.7 percent (22 of 54) accuracy. Senior center David Collette was the team’s only double-digit scorer with 14.
The Utes really struggled shooting the ball in the first half. They were 9 of 26 from the field — missing seven straight shots at one point — and made only three of the 12 3-pointers they attempted.
USC, meanwhile, connected on 51.7 percent of its shots and held a 38-28 advantage at halftime. The Trojans led by as many as 17 points before the break. The Utes closed out the half with a 9-2 run to close the gap.
The second half opened with USC scoring the first five points before Utah rallied with eight straight points. It fueled a rally that eventually pulled the Utes to within 55-49.
Things got ugly for Utah after that. USC went on a 16-0 surge to pull away and seal the outcome. In the midst of it came the bench technical after Krystkowiak’s beating of the clipboard.
“I was super proud of the guys for not folding their tent. We pulled it to within a two-possession game in the second half, and, yeah, we ran out of steam.”
The Utes, who lost to the Trojans 84-67 last month in Los Angeles, conclude the regular season Saturday at home against Colorado. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m.