Runnin’ Utes brace for two top-25 tests


SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – For the first time since 2011, the Runnin’ Utes will play back-to-back games against top-25 teams this week, as USC and UCLA come into the Huntsman Center.

UCLA is 16-1, ranked 4th in the nation, while USC is off to a 15-2 start, ranked 25th. But the Utes welcome the challenge.

“It’s a huge test,” said freshman guard Devon Daniels. “They’re both playing really good right now and I think it’s a great opportunity for us to get better.”

“Both of those squads are playing really really well, a lot of offensive firepower, elite athletes being coached well,” added Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak.

The Utes (11-4, 2-1 Pac-12) have already played three top-25 teams this year, and they lost all three to Xavier, Butler and Arizona. But coming off an impressive win over Arizona State on Saturday, they certainly won’t be intimated by the athleticism of the L.A. rivals.

“They came from high school just like us,” said Utes guard Lorenzo Bonam. “They may be more highly recruited, five stars versus us being two or three stars. But we’re going to see if they have more heart.”

The Bruins are a legitimate Final Four caliber team led by freshman sensation Lonzo Ball. But the Utes can’t look ahead to Saturday, they first have to tackle USC on Thursday. Even though Utah has beaten the Trojans seven straight times, Krystkowiak says that won’t matter.

“With seven straight wins against a team to me is a little bit like flipping coin,” Krystkowiak said. “You flipped it  7 straight times and it came heads, that has no impact whatsoever on the next outcome.”

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