SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Shorthanded and out-manned, the Runnin’ Utes gave it a good shot against one of the best teams in the nation, but came up short at home against #4 UCLA Thursday night.
Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored 17 of his 23 points in the second half and Tyger Campbell added 18 as the Bruins held on for a 78-71 win over Utah at the Huntsman Center.
Jaquez, who was UCLA’s only effective offensive player in the second half, made a 3-pointer with 1:03 remaining to seal the win just moments after Campbell made a 3 from the corner.
UCLA (24-4, 15-2 Pac-12) has won seven in a row despite giving up more than 70 points for just the fourth time this season.
Mike Saunders Jr. came off the bench to score a career-high 25 points for Utah (17-12, 10-8 Pac-12), which has lost three in a row.
The Utes played without their starting backcourt of Rollie Worster and Gabe Madsen, who are both injured. Utah finally started making 3-pointers in the second half and cut the Bruins lead to 62-59 after Wilguens Exacte and Saunders hit from beyond the arc.
But Jaquez came up with baskets when the Bruins needed them most.
Utah held the Bruins without a field goal for more than six minutes in the middle of the second half, highlighted by a couple of thunderous blocks from Branden Carlson and Keba Keita.
Saunders, who only had three points in all of conference play coming into the game, brought a new element of speed to the Utes but made some mistakes characteristic of seldom-used players.
UCLA’s 15-2 mark through 17 Pac-12 games marks the program’s best conference start since the 2007-08 Final Four team with Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook.
Tyger Campbell scored 10 of his points in the first half and helped manufacture open shots for his teammates while the Bruins held the Utes to 33 percent and 0-for-10 from 3-point range to take a 43-31 lead at halftime.
The Utes made it difficult at times for the Bruins with a determined effort on the boards and a lot of hustle, but the Utes couldn’t shoot. Without their guards, Saunders was a pleasant surprise, but it didn’t matter because UCLA shot so well early and held Carlson in check.
Utah plays its final home game of the year Saturday night against USC.