GAME NOTES: The Utah Utes will once again attempt to secure their first road win of the season, as they take on the USC Trojans in the City of Angels on Thursday evening.
It has been a tale of two seasons for Larry Krystkowiak's Utes this year, as all 16 victories for the team have come in Salt Lake City. Utah is an ugly 0-6 on the road this year, but does bring a two-game win streak into this contest, besting both Washington (78-69) and Washington State (81-63) last week.
Andy Enfield's first season with the Trojans has produced middling results, as USC is currently three games under .500 at 10-13. The Pac-12 slate has been even more daunting for USC, which resides in the conference cellar at just 1-9. The lone league win came at home against California on Jan. 22, but the Trojans have dropped four straight games since, including last weekend's 83-73 setback to crosstown rival UCLA.
USC holds a 17-16 advantage in the all-time series with Utah, but the Utes are seeking the regular-season sweep after routing the Trojans at home on Jan. 16, 84-66.
A strong offensive squad, Utah enters this game ranked third in the country in field-goal percentage (.504), resulting in an impressive 79.3 ppg. The team has also played quite well on the defensive end, holding opponents to just 63.3 ppg. Utah has been a bit snake-bitten this season, seven total losses have come by a combined 26 points. Delon Wright has emerged as one of the conference's top playmakers, as the junior guard averages 16.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game. Sophomore forward Jordan Loveridge is a close second in the scoring column (15.8 ppg) and tops the team on the boards (7.7 rpg). Fellow sophomore Brandon Taylor (11.0 ppg) rounds out the team's top offensive threats.
The Utes once again performed well offensively in their win over Washington State last weekend, converting an efficient 52.7 percent from the floor overall, while holding a 36-29 edge in rebounding. Six Utes notched double figures in the win, led by Taylor's 16 points. Loveridge finished with 13 points, Wright just missed a double-double with 11 points and nine assists, while Dallin Bachynski, Jeremy Olsen and Princeton Onwas netted 10 points each.
USC has struggled in terms of efficiency play this year, as the Trojans are currently saddled with a -3.3 scoring margin and a -3.4 turnover margin. Offensively, the squad puts up a modest 71.8 ppg on .450 shooting, with a trio of double-digit scoring averages. Forward Byron Wesley has been the best of the group, leading the team in both scoring (17.3 ppg) and rebounding (6.8 rpg). Guards J.T. Terrell (10.5 ppg) and Pe'Shon Howard (10.4 ppg) add some depth. Howard tops the team in assists (98) and steals (36).
Wesley had a huge game, finishing with 27 points, eight rebounds and four assists, but it wasn't enough in a 10-point loss to the Bruins last time out. Howard and Terrell joined Wesley in double digits with 14 and 13 points, respectively. Howard dished out seven assists in the loss, but was guilty of a team-high four turnovers.
Utah has yet to win on the road and this game may just represent its best chance to finally do so. Wright and Loveridge are a tough tandem and should do enough to compensate for whatever Wesley throws up there.
Game Date and Time