SALT LAKE CITY — Utah wrapped up the No. 3 seed in next week’s Pac-12 Tournament with a 92-81 win over UCLA in the Huntsman Center.
Sedrick Barefield scored 29 points as the Utes became the only team in the conference to earn a bye in the tourney in each of the past five seasons.
Utah (17-13, 11-7) will play in the late quarterfinal game on Thursday (9:30 p.m. MT) against the winner of Wednesday’s first-round contest between No. 6 Oregon and No. 11 Washington State.
“There were a lot of combinations go through today. Somebody told me there were 32 different possible scenarios,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “We didn’t talk about it much with our team. It gets back to if we took care of business and do what we needed to do ... we were going to be in one of the top spots.”
The Utes came out firing against the Bruins. They made 11 3-pointers while building a 51-31 halftime lead. Donnie Tillman hit four of the shots from behind the arc. Barefield and Parker Van Dyke made three and two, respectively, while Both Gach and Brandon Morley added one apiece during the decisive stretch.
“Great team shooting, a lot of guys shot it really well,” said Van Dyke, who added that the Utes did a great job of moving the ball.
Utah opened the game with a 19-6 run and later used a 23-4 outburst to make a big lead even larger. The Utes trailed only once — at 2-0.
The Bruins did manage to close the gap to eight in the second half. However, once the score was tightened to 75-67 with 6:44 to go, Utah responded with a 6-1 run to regain additional breathing room. A 6-0 spurt later in the game countered the final time UCLA cut the deficit to single digits.
Van Dyke noted the Utes showed great poise in the end. They were determined not to let the Bruins come back and win as Utah did at Pauley Pavilion earlier this season when Van Dyke’s 3-pointer at the buzzer capped a comeback from 22 points down.
The Utes stuck to the game plan, he explained, and did not panic.
At game’s end, Utah held its “Senior Day” ceremonies. Barefield, Van Dyke, Beau Rydalch and Novak Topalovic were honored.
“It’s a proud day for our seniors. I thought we played a tremendous first half, probably our best half of basketball to start the game,” Krystkowiak said.
Utah had assists on 13 of its 17 shots over the first 20 minutes. The Utes had just two turnovers. Although things weren’t as sharp in the second half when UCLA switched defenses (from zone to man), they finished with just five miscues in the game and wound up tying a school record with 17 3-pointers.
“It was a fun win for our program,” Krystkowiak said. “Season two is over and now season three gets started Thursday.”16 comments on this story
EXTRA STUFF: Both teams were without their starting centers. Utah’s Jayce Johnson was out with an ankle injury. UCLA’s Moses Brown did not play due to a violation of UCLA’s student-athlete code of conduct . . . Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell was among the announced crowd of 12,914 in attendance . . . Kris Wilkes topped UCLA with 20 points . . . The Utes finished Pac-12 play with a 6-3 road record and a 5-4 mark at the Huntsman Center . . . Van Dyke finished with a game-high five assists and three steals.