LAS VEGAS — About a month ago, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said Jarred DuBois wasn’t shooting like he knew he could and he hoped DuBois would heat up when it counted.
The senior from California did just that Wednesday night in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament as he had perhaps his best game as a Ute, making 7-of-12 from the field and 6-of-7 from the foul line and tying his career high with 22 points.
Most important was how Dubois stepped up when the Utes were in danger of completely blowing a 13-point lead in the final minutes.
DuBois came up huge, swishing two jumpers, including a 3-pointer, and then dishing off for an assist on three consecutive possessions to make the difference for the Utes.
“I was just trying to make plays,’’ DuBois said. “I think it’s important as a senior that you do whatever you can do to win.’’
DuBois felt he didn’t do that early in the season, but now he tries to do a better job of getting a rebound or a stop.
“Or tonight, it was make a big play by scoring and getting the open guy the ball,’’ he said.
The Trojans had just scored 12 points to pull within a point at 60-59 when DuBois put the Utes on his shoulders.
He came down and hit a 12-footer from the right angle — Utah’s first basket in more than five minutes. Then after Omar Oraby scored inside, DuBois came through again as he calmly sank a 3-pointer from the top of the key at the 2:31 mark to put the Utes up by four.
After another USC miss, with the Trojans keeping a close eye on DuBois, he drove down the right side and with the defense collapsing he found a wide-open Washburn for a dunk to make it 67-61.
The Trojans got within three in the final minute, but didn’t have enough to overcome DeBois’ heroics, which thrilled his fan club on the first row of the Utah crowd in section 106.
DuBois’s mother, Sharon, brother, Joshua, and father, Gary, were all on the front row of the Utah section, along with four others from the family. Sharon was wearing a Utah T-shirt with Utah and her son’s number 5 (in green for some reason) and was jumping up and down throughout the game.
“We had a little difficult time with him driving to the basket,’’ said USC coach Bob Cantu. “He’s so crafty. He’s great in the open court. He’s obviously a very, very good player, and he showed it tonight.’’
WHERE’S THE CROWD?: One of the reasons for moving the Pac-12 Tournament from Los Angeles to Las Vegas was to attract more fans.
For the first day the crowds were spotty at best. Attendance for the first session Wednesday was 7,451, and the 13,500-seat arena was half full for the evening games.
One usher even confided that fans were encouraged to move down to fill in lower seats in the second halves of games, supposedly to make the arena look more full for television.
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak is a fan of keeping the tournament in Las Vegas.
“I’m a fan of Vegas. I’ve got friends and family from all over the place and I know they didn’t come to L.A. So I think we’re doing something right and building some momentum.’’
RESERVE COMES THROUGH: It didn’t hurt the Utes’ chances to have USC starting center Dewayne Dedmon not playing due to a suspension for an altercation he was involved in in Spokane last week after a game against Washington State.
With Dedmon out, the Trojans started Omar Oraby, a 7-foot-2 center from Egypt who had averaged just 5.9 points in 13 minutes of action per game this year.
However, Oraby can’t be blamed for the USC loss. He led his team with 18 points and 10 rebounds in a season-high 35 minutes and helped hold Utah center Jason Washburn to 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting.
“Omar played a great game with the minutes he played,’’ coach Cantu said. “I thought Omar did a great job on Washburn. We were trying to get him to shoot over the top of him and use his length at 7-2.’’
TOURNEY NOTES: Cal, Utah’s opponent Thursday night, defeated the Utes twice during the regular season, 62-57 in Salt Lake City and 64-46 at Berkeley two weeks ago. The Colorado-Arizona game should be interesting, since the Buffaloes feel they should be 2-0 against the Wildcats this year, winning handily in Boulder after having a last-second winning shot waved off in Tucson. In Arizona State’s 89-88 overtime victory over Stanford, the Sun Devils went with the same five players for nearly the whole game as four starters played at least 43 minutes and reserve Evan Gordon played 38 minutes. The loss was Stanford’s fifth by three points or fewer this year. Stanford shot just one free throw compared to 17 for Arizona State. Utah went 18 for 21 from the free-throw line compared to 7 of 9 for USC.