Utah Basketball Loses Seventh Straight, Falling Late To No. 9 UCLA

Jan 20, 2022, 11:27 PM
Craig Smith - Utah Utes vs. UCLA Bruins...
Utah Utes head coach Craig Smith celebrates after a Ute defensive stand against UCLA in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY – The University of Utah men’s basketball team gave their best effort of the season but fell to No. 9 UCLA, 63-58 on Thursday night.

Lazar Stefanovic had a career-high 18 points to lead Utah in the loss to UCLA. Both Gach added 11 points.

Johnny Juzang led UCLA with 28 points, while Jules Bernard chipped in 14 points.

Utah Gives Great Defensive Effort In First Half Against UCLA

Johnny Juzang gave the Bruins a big spark to start the game. He scored 11 of UCLA’s first 15 points of the game. It wasn’t looking good for Utah before Both Gach and Jaxon Brenchley each knocked down a three-pointer.

The Runnin’ Utes played some solid defense for a good portion of the first half. They held UCLA without a point in over four minutes. Utah took their first lead of the game with 7:36 remaining in the first half after Lazar Stefanovic drilled a wide-open three-pointer.

In the final seconds of the first half, Riley Battin knocked down a three-pointer and the Utes got a key stop before the horn sounded. Utah took a 32-31 lead into the locker room.

Lazar Stefanovic led the Runnin’ Utes with nine points. They shot 39% from the field but went 6-of-12 from beyond the arc, while committing just three turnovers.

Johnny Juzang scored 18 of UCLA’s 31 points in the first half, including 3-for-4 from downtown. The Bruins shot 36% from the field as a team in the first 20 minutes.

Utah Suffers Tough Loss Despite Strong Effort

The second half started much like the first half did with UCLA scoring early but Utah climbed back into the game with their defense. Utah took a one-point lead with under 12 minutes remaining in the game and held UCLA scoreless for the last three minutes during that stretch.

As Utah took a four-point lead after a Lazar Stefanovic three-pointer, UCLA went on an 8-0 run as the Runnin’ Utes’ offense went stagnant. UCLA had a four-point lead when the run ended and Gabe Madsen hit a big three-pointer to make it a 5-0 run and a Utah 51-50 lead with 5:50 remaining in the game.

After taking a three-point lead, UCLA ended the run and went on a 7-0 run of their own, while Utah was scoreless for the next 2:41 of the game. The Bruins had a 58-54 lead with 2:42 left to play.

Trailing by three with under one minute to play, Both Gach was able to get to the foul line. He made one of two and UCLA’s lead was two. The Runnin’ Utes had a chance to take the lead but Gach was called for an offensive foul.

The Bruins made one of two free throws to make it a three-point lead with 25 seconds left. With 20 seconds left and Utah having possession, they had two good chances at tying the game but Gabe Madsen and Lazar Stefanovic couldn’t get either attempt to fall.

Utah dropped their record to 8-11 overall and 1-8 in Pac-12 play. They will return to the Jon M. Huntsman Center on Saturday, January 22 against USC at 4:30 p.m. MT on the Pac-12 Network.

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for KSLSports.com, Co-Host of Faith, Family and Football podcast with Clark Phillips III and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASports.

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Utah Basketball Loses Seventh Straight, Falling Late To No. 9 UCLA