Los Angeles, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - Coming off just their fourth setback of the season, the 11th-ranked Utah Runnin' Utes now focus on the USC Trojans in a Pac-12 Conference clash at the Galen Center on Sunday afternoon.
The Runnin' Utes entered the weekend tied for second in the Pac-12 standings with Stanford at 6-2, trailing only Arizona. On Thursday night, Utah was stunned by a mediocre UCLA program on the road by a score of 69-59, snapping a two-game win streak for the Utes in the process.
As for the Trojans, they continue to look up at the rest of the league with their 1-7 mark. They were tied with Washington State with the worst overall record among Pac-12 programs at 9-11 prior to the weekend's action. Three nights ago, the team fought through three overtime periods before being brushed aside by Colorado, 98-94, at home. It was USC's fifth straight setback and the seventh in eight tries since the start of the new calendar year.
The Utes easily won the first meeting of the season early last month by a score of 79-55 at home, as Delon Wright registered a double-double with 11 points and 10 assists, one of four players to score in double figures for a Utah squad that knocked down 56.9 percent from the field and 11-of-19 shots behind the 3-point line.
With that victory at the Huntsman Center, Utah moved ahead in the all-time series by a count of 18-17.
Utah made good on 57.1 percent from the floor in the first half against the Bruins, but still the visitors trailed by three at the break and eventually by 15 in the second half before settling for the 10-point road loss. Wright tried to keep the Utes competitive with 15 points and six rebounds, shooting 6-of-9 from the floor, followed by Brandon Taylor with 14 points and five assists as he connected on 4-of-9 tries out on the perimeter, the rest of the team combining to make only 3-of-13 from distance.
Wright and Taylor have been the focal points on offense for the Utes when they head into battle against the rest of the Pac-12, the duo averaging 12.9 and 12.8 ppg, respectively. Wright, who has made good on all but four of his 35 free-throw attempts, is also the key figure when it comes to getting his teammates involved in the action, having handed out 53 assists in eight starts. Taylor is right behind him with another 33 dishes as they combine for 31 steals and just 27 turnovers as the team averages a shade over 10 miscues per contest.
In an exhausting exhibition just three nights ago, Katin Reinhardt and Nikola Jovanovic became the first pair of Trojans to score 30 or more points in the same game, albeit doing it in three overtimes. However, the 35 points from Reinhardt and the 30 from Jovanovic were not enough to keep USC out of the loss column yet again. Reinhardt drained a total of nine 3-pointers to tie the single-game record set by Anthony Pendleton nearly 30 years ago, and setting the new mark at the Galen Center. Jordan McLaughlin, who missed a number of opportunities to potentially give USC the win, finished with 11 points, seven boards and seven assists, but at the same time shot only 5-of-12 at the free- throw line.
As the only USC player to have started all eight league games, it makes sense that Jovanovic leads the team in scoring with 16.8 ppg as he shoots 59.3 percent from the floor. He is also first on the glass with 6.8 rpg, yet somehow has accidentally issued a mere five assists in 250 minutes of action. Reinhardt, who fouled out against Colorado, has converted 23 of his team's 40 3-pointers, leading to 14.1 ppg, while McLaughlin pitches in with 10.3 ppg and 26 assists, but is hitting a mere 28.4 percent from the floor overall.