LAS VEGAS — The University of Utah men’s basketball team opened their post-season play in Las Vegas against USC in the quarterfinal of the Pac-12 Tournament Thursday night, and the Utes took home the win 80-72.
The first half was a close affair early on, as the largest gap in score was only three points until the final minutes of the half, when the Utes surged ahead to a 41-33 lead heading into halftime. Utah scored the final 9 points of the first half to jump out to that lead.
Utah maintained the lead throughout the second half, but USC saw some life with about 3 minutes left to play and managed to narrow the gap to 69-67. But Utah’s Kyle Kuzma immediately answered back with a 3-point shot to make it 72-67 Utah.
USC scored on their next possession to come within 3 points, but Brandon Taylor drained another 3 to extend the Utes’ lead to 6 at 75-69. The Utes hung on to secure the win, finishing the game 80-72.
Kyle Kuzma led the Utes in scoring with 23 points and seven rebounds, while Jakob Poeltl chipped in 14 points and snagged eight rebounds. Lorenzo Bonam also scored 14 for Utah.
The Utes entered the Pac-12 Tournament with a 24-7 overall record and a 13-5 Pac-12 record. According to the U of U, that resume is the Utes’ best since the 2004-2005 season, and it was good enough to earn them a No. 2 seed in the tournament. Utah headed into the tournament ranked No. 8 in the NCAA RPI rankings.
Utah will now advance to the semifinal, where they will play the winner of the quarterfinal match-up between No. 3 seed Cal and No. 6 seed Oregon State, which was scheduled for Thursday night.
The semifinal game is scheduled for Friday at 9:30 p.m. MST.