SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – For the 5th straight year, the Utes basketball team has clinched a first round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament.
On Senior Day, senior guard Sedrick Barefield scored 29 points on 11 of 22 shooting, as the Utes blew past UCLA at the Huntsman Center, 92-81.
With the victory, Utah finishes at 11-7 in the Pac-12 (17-13 overall), and will open the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas as the 3-seed with a quarterfinal game Thursday at 9:30 p.m. mountain time against the 6-seed, Oregon, which knocked off #1 seed Washington Saturday night.
Oregon defeated Utah in its only matchup in the Huntsman Center in January, 78-72.
“Somebody told me there was 32 possible scenarios and we didn’t talk about it much with our team and it just gets back to taking care of business and doing what we needed to do,” said head coach Larry Krystkowiak. “I think we were going to be in one of the top spots. It’s a proud day for our seniors and I thought we played a tremendous first half, probably our best half of basketball to start the game.”
Timmy Allen added 17 points, while Donnie Tillman chipped in 14 for the Utes. Senior guard Parker Van Dyke scored 12 points and dished out five assists.
The Utes came out on fire, making 11 three-pointers in the first half in building a 51-31 lead at the break.
UCLA cut the deficit to single digits three times, the final time when Bernard’s layup trimmed Utah’s lead to 28-20. That’s as close as the Bruins would get in the first half.
Utah ripped off a 23-4 run to take a 51-24 lead with 2:54 left before halftime. Tillman capped the decisive spurt with back-to-back 3-pointers. The Utes scored six straight baskets to finish off the run, with Tillman accounting for four of the six.
The Bruins outscored Utah 22-6 over a six-minute stretch spanning both halves and cut the deficit to 57-46 on a 3-pointer from Wilkes. Riley Battin hit a pair of corner 3s and Barefield also scored a pair of baskets to finally halt the run and boost Utah’s lead to 69-49.
UCLA strung together one more rally. The Bruins hit three straight baskets, the last a 3-pointer from Singleton, to cut the deficit to 75-67. UCLA would not get any closer and the Utes put it away when Barefield and Van Dyke hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Utah a 91-76 lead with 58.1 seconds left.
“That’s what we have talked about, the strength of the wolf is the pack and the strength of the pack is the wolf,” Krytkowiak siad. “Not everybody has had the type of statistical season that they need, but certainly tonight a couple guys did their deal and when you get into Vegas, as you are aware, you can’t win multiple games without those guys stepping up so it is kind of a testament to those guys for sticking to it and when their opportunity came they made the most of it.”
Utah made 17 of 38 three-pointers in all, and shot 45.6 percent from the field.
The Utes played their second straight game without leading rebounder Jayce Johnson, but hope to have their starting center back for the Pac-12 Tournament Thursday night againt Oregon.