LOS ANGELES, CA- Jayce Johnson scored 13 points on 63 percent shooting as Utah handed USC their first Pac-12 Conference home loss of the season, beating the Trojans 77-70.
“It was a game of streaks,” Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said.
Back-to-back sets of successful Bennie Boatwright foul shots and a Nick Rakocevic bucket brought USC to within seven points, at 64-57. Utah guard Parker Van Dyke swished a crucial 3-pointer to put the Utes in front by double digits with just under two minutes left.
Throughout the game’s final 14 seconds, USC forced two Utah turnovers and scored five points.
Krystkowiak said, “I thought we got sloppy at the end. That’s gotta be something in our DNA, it doesn’t matter if it’s the first play of the game or up ten, down ten. We’ve gotta be solid.”
Utah forward Both Gach contributed 15 points in 25 minutes. 6-foot-2 guard Sedrick Barefield scored 13 points and dished out five assists.
Utah improves to 12-10 on the season and 6-4 in Pac-12 competition. The Utes, winners of three straight road games, break a three-way tie for fifth place in the conference standings with the win.
Jonah Mathews scored a game-high 18 points for USC. Bennie Boatwright added 17 points on 43 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
The Trojans forced 14 Utah turnovers but were outscored 21-14 in bench points. USC toppled Utah 47-40 in the second period but trailed by 14 at the half.
“This was our worst effort in a long time,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said. “I’m disappointed in our team and take the blame for that.”
Utah pushed its advantage to 23 points after Barefield crossed and netted a 3-pointer with 11:30 left in the second period.
“When we’re down like that, we need to get more stops,” Mathews said. “There wasn’t any coming together.”
USC’s offense finally awoke on an 11-2 scoring run, highlighted by a Rakocevic behind the back dime to Kevin Porter Jr. for a two-handed slam. The Trojans’ offensive spurt cut Utah’s lead to 14 with nine minutes remaining.
Utah jumped ahead 7-0 roughly three minutes in.
Boatwright said, “We just came out slow. Plain and simple. We’ve got to learn from it and get better.”
Donnie Tillman came off the Utah bench, hit two 3-pointers and converted an and-one bucket. Gach nailed consecutive 3’s as the Utes extended their first period lead to 20.
“We didn’t come out with energy, offensively or defensively,” Enfield said. “We had one offensive rebound in the first half and only had three assists.”
Derryck Thornton floated the ball through to end first half action, USC trailing 37-23. Gach led all first period scorers with 11 points. The Trojans are no longer undefeated at Galen Center, dropping to 7-1 on the season.
“It is surprising to us because we’ve been playing good basketball,” Enfield said. Mathews added, “Every team in America has ups and downs. People lose at home all the time. But, when we’re at home, this is where we’re supposed to get our wins at.”
Overall, USC sits at 13-10 overall and 6-4 in conference play.
Blake Atwell is a multimedia journalist and sophomore at Santa Monica College.