The Utah Utes are one of the hottest teams in the country, coming into last night having won seven straight games and earning the second seed in the Pac-12 tournament and a first round bye. The Utes drew USC in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament a team that is flirting with an at-large bid to the Big Dance.
Led by forward Kyle Kuzma’s 23 points and 7 rebounds, the Utes held off the Trojans for an 8 point win that leaves USC squarely on the bubble. Kuzma though, thinks the Trojans deserve a bid.
“Credit to USC, they’re a great team. I think they should be a tournament team,” said Kuzma on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “They can get hot at any moment. When you have that many one-on-one players and players that can create their own shot–they’re a great team. I think we defensively just stayed to our gameplan. We tried to control them off of pick-and-rolls and limit their three-point shooting because they have a lot of great shooters. If we did that, then we thought we could win.”
For Kuzma, the 23 points was well above his season average of 11.1 per game, so what was behind the break out performance?
“This is all my teammates, I had a lot of easy lay-ups and wide open three point shots,” said Kuzma. “They did a great job of finding me and I just capitalized on that.”
The Utes now face California in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament, and find themselves sitting at a 3 seed in Jerry Palm’s latest bracket projection. The Utes shot 60% from the field and 45% from three against the Trojans and with shooting like that, they’ll be a tough out against anyone.
“When we shoot the ball like that, share the ball, I think we can compete with anybody in the country,” said Kuzma. “Today, you guys saw that a little bit. But, you know, we had a couple of mistakes defensively and I feel like they were coming down the floor scoring at will for a certain part of the game. We have to look at the tape and get ready for tomorrow’s game.”