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February 14, 2014

Same formula, same result for 'SC




With the Utes coming to town, USC head coach Andy Enfield changed things up. He only had a couple of familiar starters in the lineup but even with those changes, it was the same old result for USC.

Brendyn Taylor, Stranhinja Gavrilovic, D.J. Haley, Pe'Shon Howard and Byron Wesley were the five starters on the floor today, but Utah still was able to win 79-71.

"It was a tough loss," Enfield said after the game. "Utah played a very good game and made some tough shots… They're very good offensively because they have elite drivers and two excellent shooters. They're a very balanced team. They know their roles and they play well together. They're tough to defend."

The game was Utah's first conference road win in eleven tries, dating back to last season. And it followed a formula that USC has used for the last few games. Start strong, fade fast.

And the Trojans started very strong before fading down the stretch. About eight minutes into the first half, USC held an eight point lead over Utah and seemed poised to compete for just their second Pac-12 win this season.

But they couldn't hold on. The Utes rallied back with a 26-13 run to end the half with a slight lead. And it just got worse in the second half.

After Dukes hit a three in the opening minute, which cut the deficit to just two points, the Utes went on another big run. Utah outscored USC 24-10 over a ten minute period before the Trojans fought their way back into the game.

But even with a chance to win, USC had a hard time converting key opportunities and making runs.

"It's been really tough," junior guard Byron Wesley said. "Like the last game, we have some positives to draw from this. We need to work on not having five to seven minute stretches were we don't score. I don't know why it happens but it costs us games. We need to figure it out and correct it."

It's about more than bad stretches of play, wide open Utah shooters or being out-hustled for rebounds. All of those things happened. The Utes hit over fifty percent of their three-point shots, rebounded three of their own missed free throws and had a few huge scoring runs.

Despite all of that, USC was still in the game. They just couldn't get out of their own way. With just over eight minutes left in the game, Gavrilovic took a fast break opportunity hard to the basket and dunked it. That cut Utah's lead to ten but he was called for a technical foul. With about six minutes left, as USC had cut Utah's lead to single digits, Nikola Jovanovic committed three personal fouls in a four minute stretch. Dukes and Howard also missed wide open jumpers that would have cut the lead to two possessions late in the game.

"The story of the game is we had a chance," Enfield said. "Kahlil Dukes, our best shooter misses a wide open three to cut it to six with just over three minutes left. It went in and out. Pe'Shon Howard had a chance to cut it to five a few possession later. He missed a wide open three with no within ten feet of him. Then they made a contested three at the end of the shot clock. I thought that was the story of the game tonight."

It's what Trojan fans have become accustomed too all season. Close, but not close enough.

Like in previous games, Byron Wesley was asked to shoulder most of the load. He scored 20 of USC's 71 points. Only he and Kahlil Dukes (10 points) scored in double figures. USC's assist to turnover ratio was also all wrong. The Trojans turned it over 13 times and only managed 11 assists.

And just like in previous losses, there are also positives for the Trojans to take away.

The Trojans overcame an abysmal shooting half in the first twenty-minutes (10 for 27 overall, 1 for 8 from beyond the three point line) to outshoot Utah. USC actually made 25 of 55 shots to Utah's 24 of 53. USC also outscored Utah in many different areas, including the paint (38-28), off turnovers (14-13), off fast break opportunities (11 to 8) and in bench scoring (30-14). They also hustled to out perform the Utes in steals (9 to 6) and blocks (4 to 3).

But it's still another loss for the Men of Troy. They're now 10-14 overall and 1-10 in conference. Next, they play Colorado at home. Tip off is at 5 P.M. PST on Feb. 16. It will be aired on ESPNU and 690 AM radio.

Notes

J.T. Terrell did not play much because he was fighting an illness. He had missed practice this week before the game.

Omar Oraby entered the game with the conference-leading field goal percentage of 61 percent. He went one-for-one tonight.

Oraby did not record a block tonight. That's the first game this season that he has failed to record a block.

Sophomore guard Brendyn Taylor started against the Utes. It was his first career start

D.J. Haley made his first start as a Trojan. At VCU, he had started 48 different times in his career.

Kahlil Dukes scored 10 points tonight which beats his previous career high of eight. His eight point performance came against Wake Forest on Nov. 29.

USC's last two opponents both shot over 50-percent from beyond the three-point line. Utah was 10 for 19 (52.6-percent)

There were no recruits in attendance for tonight's game.


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