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Utah awaits hot UCLA team for Thursday night duel at Huntsman Center

Utes will try to avenge loss earlier this month in L.A.

Utah forward Both Gach shoots a 3-pointer during game against College of Idaho at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. Qiling Wang, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The last time Utah and UCLA played, just 18 days ago, the two teams were just a game apart in the Pac-12 standings with the Utes having a chance to move into a tie with the Bruins with a victory that Sunday in Los Angeles.

The Utes were beaten quite handily 73-57 that day and since then, the two teams have been headed in different directions.

As the two teams get ready for an 8:30 p.m. tipoff Thursday night at the Huntsman Center, the Bruins are three games up on the Utes at 8-5, just a game out of first place, while the Utes are 5-8 and trying not to fall further in the standings.

UCLA, under first-year coach Mick Cronin, after a slow start in Pac-12 play, has come on strong, winning five of its last six, including a road win at No. 23 Arizona and a home win against No. 18 Colorado.

In the win over Utah at Pauley Pavilion, freshman guard Tyger Campbell had his best game of the year, scoring 22 points and handing out eight assists.

The Bruins have a balanced lineup with just one player, junior forward Chris Smith, averaging in double figures at 13.3 ppg. Other starters include Jalen Hill (9.5 ppg), Jaime Jaquez (9.5 ppg) Cody Riley (8.3 ppg) and Campbell (7.8 ppg), the only player who has started every game. Senior guard Prince Ali is the top player off the bench, averaging 7.1 ppg.

“They play really hard, they have all the components,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “They have an elite point guard in Tyger, who’s really grown as the year’s gone along and made them better, Smith is a load, a hybrid wing power forward and a bunch of athletes I would say are the top rebounding team in the Pac-12. We’re going to have to dial in and defend in the post.”

The Utes are 14-11 overall and 10-1 at home this season and should be at full strength with Both Gach expected in the starting lineup for the second straight game.

The Utes will take on USC Sunday at 4 p.m.

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Utah (14-11, 5-8 Pac-12) vs. UCLA (15-11, 8-5)

Huntsman Center

Thursday, 8:30 p.m. MT

TV: FS1

Radio: ESPN AM-700