SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Smothering defense has become Utah’s trademark. The rest of the Pac-12 is quickly learning what that means.
UCLA became the latest team to see its offense short-circuit against the No. 10 Utes. Utah routed the Bruins 71-39 on Sunday.
UCLA shot just 29 percent from the field and was 1 of 11 from 3-point range.
“If you guard a team like that, they’re going to shoot bad shots eventually if you don’t give them the shots they want,” junior forward Jordan Loveridge said. “If you make them shoot contested shots and get the rebounds, they’re going to have a tough night.”
Utah had no trouble generating offense. Delon Wright had 11 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals to lead a balanced effort. Jakob Poeltl had nine points and 10 rebounds for the Utes (12-2, 2-0 Pac-12), who beat the Bruins in Salt Lake City for the second straight season.
Tony Parker scored 12 points to lead UCLA, which lost its fifth straight. The Bruins (8-7, 0-2 Pac-12) trailed from start to finish.
“It’s a tough stretch and obviously we have been a little challenged offensively right now,” Bruins coach Steve Alford said. “The thing I appreciate is that the guys are playing hard. They are working hard. They practice hard. But at some point, you’ve got four, five or six guys that can’t make shots, and their confidence gets shook. It is hard to snap out of it.”
Utah’s speed and efficient shooting overwhelmed UCLA right from the start. Then the Utes’ defense finished off the Bruins, who had a long scoring drought in each half.
Brekkott Chapman and Loveridge hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Wright had a three-point play in a span of 54 seconds to put Utah up 17-5 early.
After UCLA got back within six, the Bruins missed 11 straight shots over the final six minutes before halftime. Utah made its second 11-0 run of the half, and the Utes led 32-15 at the break.
“Right now our defense is really providing us a spark,” coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “Everybody is locked into the game plan. Very few mistakes when we do our defensive rating. In particular, it’s really helping our offense. We had a stretch in the first half where we were struggling against their zone and, all of a sudden, we got eight or nine straight stops.”
UCLA made just one field goal in the opening six minutes of the second half as Utah extended the lead further on a 14-0 spurt, going ahead 46-17 when Dakarai Tucker turned a steal by Wright into a layup. The Utes led by as many as 35 points.
Utah: The Utes rank in the top 20 nationally in scoring defense and field goal percentage defense. Utah held UCLA 35 points below its season average (74.2 points per game). … Utah is one of six schools to be ranked in the AP Top 25 poll in both football and men’s basketball this season.
UCLA: Bruins leading scorer Bryce Alford went 0 of 10 from the field and did not score against the Utes. Alford is 5 of 38 from the floor over his last three games. … UCLA was outrebounded 42-28 despite coming into the game as the No. 2 rebounding team in the Pac-12.
Utah improved to 10-0 at home this season, and few of those have been close. In their nine home games before beating UCLA, the Utes outscored opponents by an average score of 84-57 and shot 56 percent.
Utah hosts Colorado on Wednesday.
UCLA hosts Stanford on Thursday.
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