SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – For just the second time this season, the Utah basketball team lost a game at the Huntsman Center, falling to UCLA Thursday night, 69-58.
Jules Bernard scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half for the Bruins, while Tyger Campbell had 13 points and steadied the Bruins when the Utes made a couple runs.
Chris Smith, David Singleton and Jaime Jaquez each had nine for the Bruins, who have won eight of 10.
Alfonso Plummer scored 16 points, Timmy Allen had 11 points while Branden Carlson scored 10 before fouling out in just 13 minutes of action for the Utes, who dropped to 10-2 at home.
“It’s nice, but I feel like we have to get better on defense, try to communicate more on that end but I feel nice,” Plummer said. “I’m trying to just work hard every practice and try to get better and just wait for my chance. Tonight I just felt like it was my night and I thank all my teammates for giving me the looks.”
The Utah offense went through a long scoring lull late in the first half, with 7:46 between field goals, and allowed UCLA to go on a 10-0 run – which set the Utes behind 30-17. Lahat Thioune finally put an end to that scoring drought when he connected on a hook shot in the heart of the paint with 2:36 left in the first half.
The Bruins (16-11, 9-5 Pac-12) led by as many 20 after Campbell made a jumper with 11:28 left in the game.
The Utes (14-12, 5-9 Pac-12) began pressing full court and trimmed the lead to single digits in the final two minutes but couldn’t make enough long-range shots — Utah was 3 for 12 from 3-point range with all three made by Plummer — to truly threaten.
“We need to put guys on the floor that are ready to produce and commit to it,” head coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “So yeah, at this point it might be time to shake a few things up and see if guys are better coming off the bench. I really liked the way some guys competed tonight, I think Alfonso showed me something and Mickey showed me something and we just need to get a little dirty and nasty from time to time.”
UCLA is now 15-0 this season when limiting the opposition to 73 points or fewer and remain within striking distance of the logjam at the top of the conference.
UCLA set the tone early by making seven of its first eight shots and never trailing.
Bernard’s 14 first-half points helped the Bruins grab a big lead early. Cody Riley missed a free throw but the shortest Bruin flew in for the rebound and dished to Singleton for 3-pointer that gave UCLA a 33-21 lead at the half.
As poorly as the Utes have performed away from Salt Lake City, they have been potent at home, winning 10 of 11 games before Thursday night. But against the Bruins switching defense, they couldn’t find a rhythm and had 16 turnovers. They even had one of four shot clock violation out of a timeout.
Carlson was in foul trouble throughout the game and Utah coach Larry Kryskowiak was arguing with the officials all game long. He was whistled for a technical foul with 4:31 left in the first half.
Utah will try to end a 3-game losing skid Sunday at home against USC. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:00 p.m.