Utah Puts Up Fight, Outmanned By No. 4 UCLA

Feb 23, 2023, 10:59 PM | Updated: Feb 24, 2023, 10:12 am

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah put up a good fight at times against No. 4 UCLA at the Huntsman Center Thursday night, but the Bruins were ultimately able to outman the Utes.

The Runnin’ Utes down two key players in Gabe Madsen and Rollie Worster, were creative in their lineups utilizing guys like Wilguens Jr. Exacte, Mike Saunders Jr., and Bostyn Holt to make up for some of the lost production, but it wasn’t quite enough to beat the Bruins. UCLA came away victorious, 78 – 71.

Utah finished the night shooting 43% from the field, and 29% from the three. 12 turnovers and 14 UCLA points from them was the biggest difference maker in the game aside from poor shooting (especially early on in the game).

Saunders Jr. lead the team scoring with 25 points, while Marco Anthony took the wheel with 12 rebounds and Branden Carlson added in four assists.

UCLA, Utah First Half

Utah got off to an early 2-0 lead on the No. 4 Bruins before they tied it up two minutes in. UCLA didn’t waste any time making it a 4-2 while the Utes struggled to get shots to fall.

Utah’s scoring woes were broken fairly quickly out of the first timeout after Bostyn Holt hit a two to make it an 8-4 game at the 14-minute mark. The Bruins wasted little time putting another two on the board, but Lasar Stefanovic answered back with two plus a trip to the line bringing the Utes within three, 10-7.

The few minutes out of the media break didn’t go well for the Utes forcing head coach Craig Smith to call another timeout to regroup Utah who got down 21-14 with 8:32 left to play. The timeout didn’t do much to curb the bleeding as the Bruins proceeded to go on a 10-0 run over two minutes to extend their lead 26-14.

Utah finally started to get back on track again with a Mike Saunders Jr. two that was counted due to goaltending and Stefanovic bouncing one off the board to put Utah within nine points, 27-18 with around six left to play. Holt wound his way to the basket for another layup getting Utah within seven of UCLA, 27-20.

Holt hit another big layup out of the media timeout chipping away at UCLA’s lead, but the Bruins answered back extending their lead 38-24. Marco Anthony put his stamp on the half on cleanup duty after BC came up short on a three and Stefanovic hit the last-second two to make the score 43-31 in favor of UCLA going into the half.

Bruins, Utes Second Half

Out of the half the Utes found a rhythm with Ben Carlson hitting a three and BC putting up two to help chip away at UCLA’s lead, 50-37.

BC sunk a three to put the Utes within 12 of UCLA with just under 15 to play, 52-40. Saunders Jr. put his own three up for the Utes before the Bruins answered back extending their lead, 56-43. Anthony only had one man to beat on his way to a layup adding another two for Utah, but once again UCLA was able to quickly make up the ground plus some moving the score up, 61-45.

Saunders Jr. and Holt continued to try and chip away at UCLA’s lead, 61-49. Saunders Jr. put another three on the board to get the Utes within nine, 61-52. Exacte was next to nail a three awakening the crowd and inching Utah a little closer, 62-55.

UCLA got back in gear a bit out of the break, but Saunders Jr. made sure to put a three on it to keep the Utes within striking distance, 68-62. BC puts another two up only to have the Bruins answer with three, 71-64 with under two minutes to play.

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @BodkinKSLsports

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Utah Puts Up Fight, Outmanned By No. 4 UCLA