Utah forward Kyle Kuzma dropped a career-high 23 points in the No. 2-seeded Utes’ (25-7) 80-72 victory over the No. 7-seeded USC Trojans (21-12).
LAS VEGAS—Utah forward Kyle Kuzma scored just 15 points in Utah’s final four regular season games. Tonight in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament, he dropped a career-high 23 points in the No. 2-seeded Utes’ (25-7) 80-72 victory over the No. 7-seeded USC Trojans (21-12).
The Utes advanced to the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals to face No. 3 seed California, who defeated No. 6 Oregon State, 76-68.
Kuzma made his 23 points on 11-of-12 shooting from the floor, with ten of those coming via assists. The Utes, who lead the Pac-12 in assists, led the Trojans in that category, 22-9.
The biggest blow of the game came when Brandon “Steph Curry” Taylor beat the shot clock out of a Utah timeout with 1:42 to play, nearly from the Pac-12 Tournament logo at mid-court, pushing the Utah margin of lead to six, which held through the end of the game.
Utah maintained a 10-point lead through most of the second half. After the under-8 media timeout, USC found momentum, chipping away at the lead, and cutting it down to 69-67. Kuzma hit his ninth three-pointer of the season to extend the lead back to five, leading to Taylor’s three-pointer just moments later.
The Trojans came out of the gate with a high-energy attack, initially throwing the Utes out of their offensive groove. Conference Player of the Year Jakob Poeltl did not score until 12:11 remained in the first half, adding to Lorenzo Bonam’s early effort of scoring the Utes’ first twelve points.
“We spent about the first ten minutes of the first half not looking at Jakob the way we needed to,” head coach Larry Krystkowiak said on the Pac-12 Network TV broadcast. “The zone kind of bothered us a little bit. We made some adjustments, and I think we found a little bit of rhythm.”
Kuzma said in the postgame press conference that he had been playing casually lately, and had a meeting with Krystkowiak to get him back on track.
Poeltl and Lorenzo Bonam each scored 14 points for the Utes, followed by Jordan Loveridge with 13, and Taylor with 8. Jordan McLaughlin led the Trojans with 24 points, followed by Julian Jacobs (16) and Katin Reinhardt (13).
The Utes totaled 61% on shots from the floor, including 10 three-pointers.
The Utes will tipoff against Cal in the Pac-12 semifinals tomorrow night at 9:30p.m. MT on ESPN 700. Pregame coverage gets underway at 7:30p.m. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.
Larry Krystkowiak, Jakob Poeltl, Kyle Kuzma Postgame Press Conference:
Brandon Taylor on Ute Postgame Show:
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