Utah's Jakob Poeltl dominates in 80-69 win over USC
LOS ANGELES (AP) Jakob Poeltl made his first four shots and two free throws, putting Utah's big man in a comfortable rhythm early.
The 7-footer from Austria had 29 points, on 11-of-13 shooting, and 13 rebounds, and the Utes shot 54 percent to beat Southern California 80-69 Sunday, handing the Trojans their first loss in 16 home games.
''It's easy to play when you get rolling, when you see the ball go in at the start,'' Poeltl said. ''You just have that energy and you can go all day long.''
He sure did, and the rest of the Utes went along for the ride.
Jordan Loveridge added 13 points and Brandon Taylor had 10 assists for the Utes (21-7, 10-5 Pac-12). They won their fourth in a row and ninth in 11 games to remain third in the league standings.
''Our team is built upon getting him some touches inside,'' Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said of Poeltl. ''Our guys are doing a nice job delivering it to him and he's not forcing the issue. He's shooting the high-percentage shot. He'll find the open guy if the double-team does come. It's been a nice combination.''
Jordan McLaughlin scored 20 points, and Julian Jacobs and Bennie Boatwright added 17 points each for the Trojans (19-8, 8-6), who fell to 15-1 at the Galen Center while dropping to fifth in the Pac-12.
''It was the Jakob Poeltl show and we didn't have any answers,'' Jacobs said.
Leading 40-30 at halftime, the Utes came out of the break with consecutive 3-pointers by Loveridge and Taylor, and two free throws from Kyle Kuzma for a 47-32 lead.
The Trojans answered with a 12-2 run, including two 3-pointers by Jacobs and four points from McLaughlin, to close to 49-44 - the closest they got in the second half.
''That was a stretch where we gave them some easy shots,'' Poeltl said. ''They made some tough shots too, and got it down to five. So we got our defense back dialed in and it got easier on offense again.''
USC didn't get to the free-throw line until 14:19 remaining in the second half, and went 3 of 6.
''It was a huge factor,'' USC coach Andy Enfield said. ''Our execution was not very good.''
Utah made 11 of 15 foul shots, with Poeltl hitting 7 of 8.
Poeltl dominated in a 23-13 run that restored Utah's lead to 15 points. He scored 12 in the Utes' spurt that kept them ahead 72-57.
''He's a pro if I have ever seen one,'' Jacobs said.
Utah led 14-9 to start the game before Jacobs and McLaughlin combined for 10 straight points to pull the Trojans within one. USC fell behind by 14 before getting within 10 points on a 3-pointer by Katin Reinhardt that beat the halftime buzzer.
Utah: Poeltl had his 12th double-double of the season. ... The Utes became the first Pac-12 team to sweep the Los Angeles schools this season, having won by two points at UCLA on Thursday. ... They extended their winning streak to six games against USC. ... They played their final road game of the regular season, finishing 5-4.
USC: The Trojans had one turnover in the second half after 10 in the first half. ... They trailed at halftime at home for the second time this season. ... They are still seeking the school's first 20-win season since 2008-09. ... Darion Clark has been out since dislocating his right shoulder in practice on Feb. 3.
Taylor, one of two senior starters for the Utes, has been making sure his teammates get the ball more.
''Brandon has been a little stubborn, and he'd probably be the first to admit it. It took him a while to figure it out, but better late than never,'' Krystkowiak said. ''His assist-to-turnover ratio was dang-near flawless shooting the ball at the same time. He's doing a lot of things for us.''
With four games remaining in the regular season, the Trojans are starting to look ahead. They are still hopeful of making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in Enfield's three seasons at the school.
''The coaches talked a lot about how this was a must-win,'' Jacobs said. ''It's imperative we win out to try to get a good bid.''
Enfield said, ''We have a chance to win a few more games. We also know we could lose all four because the Pac-12 is very good.''
Utah: Hosts Arizona State on Thursday.
USC: Visits Stanford on Thursday. The Trojans have lost four straight to the Cardinal and are 2-11 in their last 13 games at Maples Pavilion.