MBB: Utah finds its stroke in big-time victory

Ryan Kostecka

Utah entered Sunday's contest on a three game losing streak, averaging a paltry 57 points per game and shooting 14-for-51 from beyond the arc during that stretch.

But it took all of 49 seconds for Utah to put those shooting woes behind when Rylan Jones knocked down a three-pointer for the 3-0 lead —leading the Utes to a 79-65 victory over visiting Sunday afternoon at home.

“Making shots is huge,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “We needed a game like this where guys not only moved it, but we made shots when we moved it to the right place. At some point the rim’s going to open up, and it did tonight.”

Utah (15-12, 6-9 Pac-12) finished shooting 27-for-56 (48.2%) from the floor and 10-for-21 (47.6%) from beyond the arc, including a blistering 5-for-7 showing in the second half.

Alphonso Plummer capped off his strong weekend with a hot-shooting evening against the Trojans. He finished with 18 points on 5-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc, wrapping up his weekend 8-for-14 from three-point territory.

“I’m kind of lazy sometimes in practice,” Plummer said with a smile and a laugh. “I have to get better on defense because sometimes, I’m just lazy and won’t finish the plays. Right now, I’m just trying to focus and get better on both ends and help this team win.”

Timmy Allen also had a resurgent game, finishing with his sixth double-double of the season with 21 points, 10 rebounds and three assists on 7-for-13 shooting.

Brendan Carlson and Mikael Jantunen finished with a combined 24 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists, really holding it down against USC (19-9, 8-7 Pac-12) after being decimated by the Trojan big men in their first meeting.

Onyeka Okungwu had another strong performance for the Trojans against Utah, finishing with 18 points and 12 rebounds — but only one other Trojan, Elijah Weaver, finished in double figures with 13 points.

Following Jones' opening bucket, the Utes jumped out to a 16-6 lead after getting after in on the offensive glass early on. But USC, thanks to Okungwu, rallied with a 13-2 run to take the 19-18 lead with just under eight to play.

After exchanging baskets, Utah rallied with a 12-5 run, aided by three-pointers from Plummer, Jaxon Brenchley and Jones for the 34-28 lead at the break.

Utah stretched its lead to 15 early in the second half following another Plummer three-pointer, but USC wasn't done. A pull-up jumper by Jonah Matthews cut the Utes' lead to four at 55-51 with 9:42 to play. 

From there it was a battle of runs after Utah upped its lead back to 11 following a Jantunen layup with six minutes left. But USC made its final run, and after a Weaver three-pointer, had the Utah lead down five at 67-62 with 3:45 remaining.

But Plummer struck again, igniting a 12-0 run to put the game out of reach before Weaver's three-pointer with 13 seconds closed out the scoring.

Utah will now head out on the road for its last series of the Pac-12 season. The Utes will face Stanford at 8 p.m. MST on Wednesday before facing Cal on Saturday at 4 p.m. MST.