LOS ANGELES — Parker Van Dyke is playing professionally in Estonia these days, so the former East High star and University of Utah contributor obviously wasn’t walking through the doors of UCLA’s venerable Pauley Pavilion on Thursday night.

That’s too bad, because Van Dyke’s buzzer-beating heroics from a memorable game here two years ago were badly needed for the Utes to snap what is now an 11-game Pac-12 road losing streak.

Instead, it was Utes freshman Pelle Larsson with the ball in his hands in the final seconds, and the 6-foot-6 guard from Sweden not only failed to make a game-winning shot — he didn’t even take one.

The result was a heartbreaking 72-70 loss to UCLA for the improving Utes, who fell to 4-2 overall, 1-1 in conference play. The Utes haven’t won a conference road game since knocking off Washington State on Feb. 23, 2019.

“We wanted him to shoot it. He probably could have driven downhill and got to the rim. But that’s one of our bigger guards, you jump up and you give yourself a chance to tie the game, or win it with a 3. That was the plan from the beginning. But it is a situation of, ‘What can we do?’” — Utah basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak

They came as close as they ever have on the final day of 2020, however, after UCLA’s Jalen Hill made one of two free throws with 3.9 seconds left to give the Bruins a two-point lead. After a timeout, Timmy Allen inbounded the ball to Pelle, who raced up the court, but hesitated once he got just inside the 3-point line and tried to find a teammate. Jules Bernard stole the pass intended for Alfonso Plummer with .4 ticks left, a pass that probably would have been too late anyway, and the Bruins improved to 2-0 in league play, 6-2 overall.

Happy New Year, Bruins.

Pelle had the ball because starting point guard Rylan Jones had fouled out with 26 seconds left.

“We wanted him to shoot it,” said Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak. “He probably could have driven downhill and got to the rim. But that’s one of our bigger guards, you jump up and you give yourself a chance to tie the game, or win it with a 3. That was the plan from the beginning. But it is a situation of, ‘What can we do?’”

Junior Allen, who had 16 of his 18 points in the second half to lead a spirited Utes’ comeback from a 41-32 halftime deficit, said it should have never come down to a final play and put the blame on himself for what he called an “awful” first half.

But it did, and Utah wasn’t able to duplicate the 93-92 win from Feb. 9, 2019, when Van Dyke and the Utes overcame a 22-point deficit and he hit the winning 3-pointer for the visiting team to silence a raucous crowd. There were no spectators here Thursday, not even family members. Just 50 or so media members and game management personnel.

“I would be lying if I said it didn’t kinda cross my mind at the end, the finish we had a couple years ago,” Krystkowiak said. “… We put a pretty good player in a position to make a play and win the game, and we have got to move on from it. We will spend a little bit more time on end-of-game situations. … We were presented with an opportunity to win the game and didn’t make the play that we needed to.”

It’s a situation Utah fans are going to have to get accustomed to as a relatively young team with just one senior (Plummer, who led the Utes with 22 points) builds chemistry and players figure out their roles.

Krystkowiak was surprisingly upbeat after the loss, and for good reason. The Utes could have wilted when they blew an early 16-4 lead, built by some otherworldly shooting by Plummer, and gave up a 14-0 UCLA run to trail by nine at halftime.

Instead, they started the second half almost as well as they did the first, chipped away, and had a 3-point lead and the ball with around six minutes remaining.

“There were a lot of positive things that I thought happened,” Krystkowiak said. “It seemed like we had way too many turnovers, yet we had just 10. For the most part, it was a pretty darn clean game for us.”

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After Mikael Jantunen (11 points, five rebounds before fouling out) took a nice assist from Allen and made a layup to give Utah a 60-57 lead, Plummer forced up a heavily defended 3-pointer that barely hit the rim. Bernard and Johnny Juzang then made back-to-back 3-point plays for the Bruins, sandwiched around another Plummer miss from 3-point range, and UCLA held between a four and one point lead the rest of the way.

“I think about Fons’ 3 at the end of the game that could have put us up six, the wide open one off the offensive rebound,” Krystkowiak said.

Ironically, offensive rebounds helped the Bruins run out to the halftime lead, but Utah out-rebounded one of the best rebounding teams in the country in the second half, an edge that made Krystkowiak proud.

The Bruins’ big advantage was their bench, which outscored Utah’s reserves 22-11.

“Yeah, this isn’t a typical basketball team,” Krystkowiak said. “This is a team that is top 10 in rebounding. … But I thought for the most part we brought our hard hats tonight and guys scrapped.

“We had to try to gang rebound. We put bodies on guys and got them to miss.”

UCLA finished with a 32-27 rebounding advantage.

“They came out playing real physical, but we should expect that coming into Pac-12 play,” said Allen. “We just had to play through that and we were able to do that better in the second half.”

As for Larsson having the ball at the end, rather than him or Plummer, Allen said the play went the way it was designed. 

“We trust whoever has the ball in their hands to make a play in that situation. It didn’t come off like we wanted it to. … I put a lot on my shoulders for a terrible performance in the first half.”

The Utes squandered Plummer’s early fireworks, giving up 14-0 and 9-0 runs after the Puerto Rican scorched the nets in the first four minutes like he was back in Las Vegas burning Oregon State in the Pac-12 tournament last spring.

They were right there when Jones hit a 3-pointer out of a timeout to knot the score at 32 with just over two minutes left in the first half.

But Chris Smith and Juzang nailed treys on consecutive possessions, and Jaime Jacquez ended the half with a 3-point play to give UCLA the comfortable lead at the break.

The Bruins made a defensive switch, putting the 6-6 Bernard on Plummer after Juzang gave him too much space early, perhaps forgetting Plummer made a Pac-12 tournament record 11 3-pointers last spring in a loss to OSU.

While Plummer was 5 of 7 in the first half, the rest of the Utes were 7 of 19, and 3 of 13 from the 3-point line.

They rebounded and shot much better in the second half — going 14 for 26 in the final 30 minutes. But it was the shot they didn’t take that they will remember most — two years after Van Dyke made one that will never be forgotten.