They were making some tough shots and some shots that we shouldn't have let them have, but we just stuck to what the coaches were telling us to do. —Utah guard Sedrick Barefield
SALT LAKE CITY — In the end, all was well for the Utah Utes. Five players scored in double-figures in an 86-64 come-from-behind victory over 25th-ranked USC Thursday night in the Huntsman Center.
Devon Daniels scored 17 points, Lorenzo Bonam and David Collette contributed 15 apiece, Sedrick Barefield added 14; and Kyle Kuzma finished with 12 as the Utes improved to 12-4 overall and 3-1 in Pac-12 play.
“We kind of got punched in the mouth but responded,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak.
Things got better, Krystkowiak added, once the Utes rebounded. He said the first half was a disaster after giving up 10 offensive boards.
Utah got off to a terrible start. The Utes trailed 10-0 after missing their first five shots, turned the ball over twice and were outrebounded 8-1 in the opening stretch.
Bonam broke the scoring drought with a layup at 15:25. It ushered in a successful rally by the Utes. They reeled off 11 straights points to take the lead. Kuzma powered the comeback with seven points.
Barefield said the key was staying patient and understanding that their shots were going to fall.
“We were getting good looks, putting more of an emphasis on the rebounding and continuing to lock down defensively,” he explained. “They were making some tough shots and some shots that we shouldn’t have let them have, but we just stuck to what the coaches were telling us to do.”
And there was no panic, Barefield added.
After holding USC scoreless for exactly four minutes, the lead changed hands four times. Utah put an end to it when Daniels hit a 3-point shot with 10:04 left in the half. The Utes went on to build a 15-point advantage, making it 44-29 in the closing minute when Daniels made another shot from beyond the arc.
Utah led 44-31 at halftime. Collette, Daniels and Kuzma each had 10 points as the Utes warmed up and made 18 of their last 23 shots before the break. They also closed USC’s rebounding edge to 19-15.
That deficit was erased midway through the second half as Utah cruised to victory. The Utes, who wound up outrebounding the Trojans 37-34 by game’s end, also poured on the points. They used an 11-0 run to pull comfortably into victory lane. The lead swelled to 26 twice down the stretch.
Kuzma noted that rebounding, and USC giving up a little bit in the second half, made the difference.
“They stopped running and our zone really flustered them,” said Kuzma, who finished with a game-high 11 rebounds. “They weren’t really playing defense because their shots weren’t falling and we were able to capitalize on them (not) trying to go to the offensive boards like they did in the first half.”
Utah outscored USC 38-24 in the paint. The Utes wound up shooting 55.2 percent from the field, including 9 of 17 from 3-point range.
The Trojans (15-3, 2-3), meanwhile, shot just 36.7 percent from the floor.25 comments on this story
“We just have to do a better job of understanding what it takes to win on the road,” said USC coach Andy Enfield. “We got off to a good start defensively. I thought our guys played a little anxious when they started going on a run and the crowd started getting into it.”
The Utes face a bigger challenge Saturday (4 p.m., P12N), when fourth-ranked UCLA visits the Huntsman Center.
“We’ve just got to focus on the Bruins now because they’re one of the best teams in the country,” Kuzma said. “They’ve got a lot of horsepower and we’ve got to be ready to guard them.”