LOS ANGELES — Utah’s run of perfection in Pac-12 play on the road came to an abrupt end Thursday night at Pauley Pavilion. UCLA came out firing and handed the Utes a decisive 83-64 setback.
The Bruins hit seven of their first eight shots, including five 3-pointers, to set the tone early. They never trailed in ending Utah’s two-game conference win streak away from the Huntsman Center.
The Utes opened their Pac-12 slate with victories at Oregon (66-56) and Oregon State (66-64) late last month before losses at home to Arizona (94-82) and Arizona State (80-77).
“I think we’ve just got to be really, really good on the road and we were good for stints tonight. We were good for about half the game and played really well,” said junior guard Parker Van Dyke. “To beat good teams on the road like UCLA you’ve got to be good the whole game and that was something we did in Oregon, we were good for all 40 minutes.
“That’s what we’ve got to do to win the games,” he added.
As the Utes (10-6, 2-3) prepare for Sunday’s game at USC (12-6, 3-2), Van Dyke noted that they’ve got to do a better job contesting shots.
“(UCLA) did hit some shots, but I think on our part we’ve just got to do better getting to shooters and then contesting and making it tougher,” said Van Dyke, who explained that they need to get their hands up on shots and make things more difficult.
Senior forward David Collette, who led the Utes with 15 points, also pointed to defense after the loss at UCLA.
“I don’t think we were energized enough. We weren’t contesting shots,” he said. “We just didn’t play hard enough on the defensive end.”
UCLA pulled away with strong starts and fast finishes in both halves. The Bruins led by as many as 21 in the closing minutes.
“I thought we played some really good basketball tonight," said UCLA coach Steve Alford. "We had good effort as we played great to start the game, great start to end the half, great start to the second half and great start to end the game. Those are the things you have to do to win.
“Can you start both halves and end both halves? I thought those four four-minute segments were huge," he continued. "How we start the half, how we closed the half and how we started the second half were going to make it really difficult on them. I thought we were active defensively. Offensively, we took care of the ball, took good shots and made them.”
The Bruins shot 51.8 precent from the field and made 12 shots from 3-point range. Aaron Holiday scored a game-high 20 points, while three teammates finished in double-figures — Kris Wilkes (19), Prince Ali (13) and Jaylen Hands (12).11 comments on this story
“Our zone was really lethargic to start the game and these guys can really shoot the ball. They had swishes. It was like a nightmare. They would make it and just press us,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “They’re great players. But all guys are great players when your hands are down. We just didn’t play tough defense.”
There were other shortcomings as well. Krystkowiak wasn’t pleased that the Utes gave up 21 points on turnovers.
“You can’t have 13 turnovers on the road,” he said.