As the Pac-12 regular season winds down, Utah and USC meet with tournament implications on the line Thursday at the Huntsman Center. The Runnin’ Utes(15-13/9-7) tip-off the front end of their home stand against the 15-14/8-8 Trojans. With the 3-through-10 seeds still up in the air, there’s still plenty to play for tonight in Salt Lake City. (March 7, 2019 – 8p.m. MT – ESPN700 / FS1)
With just two games remaining on the slate — both at home against the LA schools — the third-place Runnin’ Utes control their own destiny in regards to a first-round bye at next weeks conference tourney. (Las Vegas – March 13-16)
Pac-12 Standings as of 3/7:
USC visits the Huntsman Center on the heels of two close losses to Oregon State and UCLA, respectively. Sitting at .500, the Trojans themselves are still in the hunt for a first-round bye. Only once has a team won the tournament while not receiving a bye. Everyone knows the importance of that extra day of preparation.
“Getting into the top four has been a goal of ours throughout the season,” Utah HC Larry Krystkowiak said. “We know how difficult it is to win four straight games down there in Vegas and that first-round bye is a big benefit. A win up in Boulder would go a long ways to making that a reality. Obviously we’d still have more work to do, but returning home to finish off the season after a quality road win would be a major boost.”
As you can see above, the matchup is a close one on paper. The Pac-12’s top two 3-point shooting teams meet in a pivotal showdown. The winner may very well be the team who connects on the most shots from distance.
Game Notes per Utah Athletics:
• Utah wraps up the regular season this week, hosting both USC (Thursday, March 7) and UCLA (Saturday, March 9) at Huntsman Center.
• Utah is coming off a 71-63 defeat to Colorado in Boulder this past Saturday, while UCLA defeated USC, 93-88, in overtime last Thursday at Pauley Pavilion.
• The Utes enter the week currently in a tie for third-place in the Pac-12 standings, coming in at 9-7 in league play. Utah is tied with both Oregon State and UCLA.
• If the Pac-12 Tournament began this week, the Utes would secure the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye. OSU would earn the No. 3 seed due to multiple team tie-breakers, but Utah would earn the No. 4 seed over UCLA by virtue of its win over the Bruins back on Feb. 9.
• Utah will celebrate Senior Day this Saturday, March 9, prior
to its game against UCLA. The men’s basketball team, along with the Utah Athletics department, will honor seniors Sedrick Barefield, Parker Van Dyke and Novak Topalovic, along with Beau Rydalch, who is set to graduate later this spring semester.
Utah (15-13, 9-7 Pac-12) will open its final home stand of the regular season hosting the USC Trojans (15-14, 8-8 Pac-12) this Thursday, March 7. Tip-off between the Utes and Trojans is set for 8 p.m. MT at the Huntsman Center.
COVERING THE RUNNIN’ UTES
Thursday’s contest will air on the Utah Athletics Radio Network (ESPN 700 AM) with Bill Riley and Jimmy Soto announcing. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), with Kevin Burkhardt calling play-by-play and Casey Jacobsen serving as the color analyst.
The Trojans are coming off a 93-88 overtime loss to UCLA this past Thursday at Pauley Pavilion. USC has dropped two straight
and five of its past seven games. USC’s has dropped its past five games by just and average of 4.8 points per game, with its most lopsided defeat coming to the hands of the Utes, 77-70, back on Feb. 6, in Los Angeles. In USC’s two previous victories, the Trojans have won by an average margin of 20.0 points.
USC is just 2-7 on the road overall and 2-5 in Pac-12 road games. USC’s two road wins came at California (89-66) and at Washington State (93-84). If you include neutral site contests, the Trojans are just 3-9 overall in games played away from the Galen Center.
The Trojans rank as the third-highest scoring offense in the Pac-12, averaging 76.7 points per game, while their .458 field goal percentage ranks just seventh among teams in the league. USC does however lead the Pac-12 in three-point shooting, knocking down .382 percent of its attempts on the year. The Trojans also rank as the league’s best with 16.8 assists per game.
USC’s Bennie Boatwright leads the way with 18.5 points per game, which also ranks third in the conference. Boatwright is second in the Pac-12 with 78 three-pointers made and a 2.9 three’s made per game average. Nick Rakocevic has tallied a team-best and ranks third in the league with 9.3 rebounds per game. Derryck Thornton, has dished out a team-high 131 assists and ranks fourth in the league with 4.7 assists per game.
UTAH VS. USC SERIES HISTORY
Utah snapped a two-game skid against the Trojans with a 77-70 win at the Galen Center back on Feb. 6, earlier this season. With the win, Utah moved to 23-19 all-time against the Trojans, which includes an 8-9 effort when playing USC on the road. Utah is 12-6 all-time, and has won three of the previous four meetings, when facing the Trojans in Salt Lake City. USC took last season’s meeting at the Huntsman Center, 74-58.
LAST TIME THE UTES AND TROJANS MET
Utah picked up a road win at USC back on Feb. 6, at the Galen Center. Both Gach scored a team-high 15 points and Jayce Johnson registered his third double-double of the season with 13 points and 13 rebounds to help lead Utah to the 77-70 road victory.
Gach, who made his first start in 10 games, scored 11 of his 15
points in the first half. He would go onto make 4-of-10 shooting
from the field overall and a 5-of-6 effort from the free throw line. Johnson scored 13 points and tied a season-high with his 13 boards, and Sedrick Barefield scored 10 of his 13 points in the second half. Donnie Tillman would finish the game with 12 points giving Utah four players in double figures for the seventh time this season.
LAST TIME OUT
Utah shot a season-low .192 (5-26) from beyond the three-point line and came away with a road loss to Colorado this past Saturday, falling to the Buffs, 71-63, at CU Events Center. The five three-pointers matched a season-low for a Utah team that averages 9.6 three’s overall and 10.1 three’s in Pac-12 only games. Utah would go more than five minutes without a bucket late in the first half and that proved to be too costly, as CU never relinquished its nine-point halftime lead.
Utah trailed by as many as 13 points with a little more than five minutes to play and despite a late push, would only get back to within six around the one-minute mark, but the shots were just not falling for the Utes. Sedrick Barefield led the team with 19 points and Jayce Johnson matched a season-high with 13 boards, but CU’s Tyler Bey notched a double-double with 17 points and 10 boards. While Utah did manage to knockdown a season-best .909 (10-11) effort from the charity stripe, the Buffs would go onto shoot 12 more free throws in the game overall, converting on 16 of its 23 attempts.
Game Notes from USC Athletics:
TONIGHT’S GAME – The USC Trojans (15-14, 8-8) will play at the Utah Utes (15-13, 9-7) at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah at 7 p.m. PT.
BREAKING DOWN UTAH – Utah is coming off a 71-63 loss at Colorado on March 2. The Utes defeated USC 77-70 at the Galen Center on Feb. 6. Utah is led in scoring by senior guard Sedrick Barefield who averages 16.8 points per game. Utah leads the all-time series 23-19.
USC FALLS IN OT AT UCLA – USC erased a nine-point second-half deficit to force over- time, but UCLA scored the first five points of the extra period and the Trojans fell 93-88 on Feb. 28 in Westwood, Calif. The game featured 12 ties and 15 lead changes and wasn’t decided until
- Jaylen Hands’ heave at the end of the shot clock from 25 feet swished through with 21 seconds left for a Bruins’ 92-88 lead. Jonah Mathews missed a three-pointer with 11 seconds remaining and Jules Bernard made 1 of 2 free throws for the final score. Bennie Boatwright led the Trojans with 25 points and a career-high 15 rebounds and knocked in a three-pointer with 1:18 remaining to give USC an 82-80 lead in regulation. Chris Smith hit a jumper in the lane with 59 seconds remaining to tie the game at 82-all. Both teams missed a shot and USC had the ball for the final shot of regulation and Boatwright missed a contested three-pointer from straight away at the buzzer. USC took a USC-record 50 3-pointers, tying a season-high with 19 makes, 1-short of the school record. USC made 39.5 percent of its shots, while UCLA made 47.8 percent.
- FLATLINING AT THE LINE – A game after not scoring from the free throw line for the first time in school history (0-for-6 vs. Oregon State on Feb. 23), USC went 1-for-7 at UCLA on Feb. 28 to match the previous school record for fewest makes and lowest free throw percentage in a game. USC was outscored 15-0 vs. Oregon State and 18-1 vs. UCLA from the free throw line, both five-point losses. USC is shooting 64.2 percent from the free throw line this season, 11th in the conference and 334 out of 351 schools.
- RAKOCEVIC HAS BEEN DOUBLE TROUBLE – USC forward Nick Rakocevic posted his conference-leading 13th double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds at California on Feb. 16. He also in one of two Pac-12 players with five games with 20 or more points and 10 or more rebounds. He has scored at least 15 points in 16 games and has at least 8 rebounds in 21 games. Rakocevic is averaging 14.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. He currently ranks among the Pac-12’s top 10 in five categories: rebounds (3rd), blocked shots (6th), field goal percentage (9th), offensive rebounds (2nd) and defensive rebounds (4th), as well as ranking 11th in scoring.
- RECORD-SETTING STRETCH – USC has won 86 games during the last four seasons (2016-19), the most wins in a four-year stretch in school history.
- BENNIE AND THE NETS – Bennie Boatwright has made 26 three-point baskets in the last four games (26-for-46, 56.5 percent) and is 34-for-63 from three-point range (54.0 percent) the last seven games. He set the USC record for three-pointers in a game and tied the Pac-12 record with 10 (10 of 13) at California on Feb. 16. He became the fourth Pac-12 to make 10 in a game.
Full Team Stats Utah(click to enlarge):
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