LOS ANGELES — For the first time in more than a year, the Utah Utes won a game on an opposing team’s home floor. Thursday’s 79-71 victory over USC in the Galen Center ended a skid of 11 straight road losses, including 10 straight in Pac-12 play by the Utes.
The drought is over. Utah can update its resume. The Utes no longer have to list a 74-65 triumph at Washington on Jan. 19, 2013 as their most recent win on an opponent’s home court.
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak acknowledged that it felt good to finally prevail on the road. However, he also noted that the Utes didn’t make it easy — holding on after building a double-digit advantage.
“We’ve had so many games like this. I really would have liked to have just run away with it," Krystkowiak said. "It was another learning experience, but hopefully we can chalk this one up again — learning these lessons now with the positive medicine of a win.”
Delon Wright scored 20 points and Jordan Loveridge added 19 as the Utes improved to 17-7 overall and 6-6 in conference with the win. They visit UCLA on Saturday.
Utah got off to a sluggish start and trailed 21-14 midway through the first half. The Utes stormed back into contention, however, with an 11-0 run that included 3-point shots by Taylor and Loveridge. Marko Kovacevic, Wright and Dallin Bachynski also scored during the pivotal stretch.
“We weren’t playing very hard,” said Krystkowiak, who told his team that during a timeout before the response. “Those guys really got after it and we got a taste of it and hopefully we can kind of put it in a bottle now and play harder when we are on the road.”
Utah went on to lead 36-31 at halftime. Wright paced the Utes with 12 points and six rebounds. Loveridge added nine points and five boards in a half featuring five lead changes and five ties.
Byron Wesley had 10 points for USC.
The Trojans managed to close the gap to two on a couple of occasions early in the second half before the Utes responded decisively. They reeled off 15 straight points to regain control of the game.
Dakarai Tucker powered the outburst with eight points, including a pair of shots from beyond the arc. Taylor also hit a 3-pointer over the lopsided span. Bachynski and Wright each added a basket as Utah extended its lead to 56-39 with 12:54 left to play.
The cushion proved to be more than adequate to keep the Utes ahead for good.
Even so, USC did close the deficit to as little as four in the closing minutes. Utah, though, managed to hold off the threat and not allow the Trojans to draw any closer down the stretch.
Statistically, the game was pretty much a draw. Both teams shots 45 percent from the floor and Utah won the rebounding battle by a narrow 34-32 margin. The Utes had 14 turnovers, while the Trojans had 13.
USC had more points in the paint (38-28) and bench scoring (30-14).