SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak didn’t like the look on his players’ faces early Thursday night, but he declined to berate the team after being forced to take a quick timeout against No. 25 USC.
That patience paid off.
“I don’t think there was a whole lot to be said,” Krystkowiak said. “We missed three bunnies at the rim that rolled in and out, so it wasn’t the end of the world.
“Kind of got punched in the mouth, but responded. … Obviously it wasn’t a great start for us. So, just tried to get the guys settled down.”
The Utes overcame a sluggish start and throttled the Trojans for the final 35 minutes of the game.
Utah fell behind 10-0 at the start and then dominated the rest of the first half to take a 44-31 lead. The Utes seemed to sleepwalk through the first 4-plus minutes, shooting 0 for 5 from the field before hitting 18 of 23 (78.3 percent) of its shots the rest of the half.
“The start was weird,” Utah forward Kyle Kuzma said. “Defensively, we weren’t that good, but we had a lot of rim-outs. … The rim was just closed for us at the start and finally opened up.”
The Trojans went in the opposite direction after the opening 10-point run and shot just 30.8 percent the rest of the half after a 4-for-6 start.
USC never truly threatened in the second half and got no closer than an eight-point deficit.
Daniels finished two points shy of his career high, and David Collette and Lorenzo Bonam added 15 apiece for the Utes. Kuzma recorded another double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Chimezie Metu paced USC with 17 points.
“We have quite a few players on our team that are struggling offensively, so they’re getting frustrated in themselves,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “When you’re not shooting the ball that well, it affects you on the defensive end. You’ve got a little more excitement and a little more energy on the defensive end when you’re making shots.
“That was our problem tonight. We missed a lot of layups, we missed a lot of open threes and we took some contested shots as well.”
USC: The Trojans were outclassed after the opening minutes. Their shooting was a dismal 36.7 percent for the game and they failed to take advantage of their athleticism. USC needs wins so the 14-0 nonconference record doesn’t turn into fool’s gold.
Utah: Nothing comes simple for the Utes. They have the talent to be a Top 25 team and an outside contender in the conference, but there are too many lulls and silly mistakes like the game-opening 10-0 run. Utah, however, showed what it can be when things are clicking.
USC: Back-to-back losses to unranked Cal and Utah could drop the Trojans out of the Top 25.
Utah: The Utes finally have a win over a ranked team, but are unlikely to find themselves ranked next week unless they upset UCLA on Saturday.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Utah shot a season-high 52.9 percent from 3-point range as six players hit a shot from behind the arc.
“I felt like they gave up a little bit in the second half,” Kuzma said. “They stopped running and our zone really flustered them. They really weren’t playing defense because their shots weren’t falling and we were able to capitalize with them not trying to go to the offensive boards like they did in the first half.”
USC: The Trojans travel to face a struggling Colorado team on Sunday that began the conference season 0-3.
Utah: The Utes host No. 4 UCLA and the Pac-12’s No. 3 and No. 4 scorers in TJ Leaf and Bryce Alford on Saturday.
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