SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Jordan Loveridge scored 14 points to lead No. 10 Utah over Southern Cal 79-55 Friday night in both teams’ Pac-12 opener.
Delon Wright had 11 points and 10 assists and Brandon Taylor added 11 points as Utah (11-2) shot 57 percent and led by double digits most of the game.
Loveridge missed seven games after knee surgery but the junior forward has returned to provide scoring punch to an offense that struggles to score at times. He made three 3-pointers and a couple of drives to the hoop.
Malik Martin and Nikola Jovanovic each scored 14 points for the Trojans (8-5), who couldn’t get closer than 15 points in the second half.
Malik Marquetti made a layup to cut Utah’s lead to 53-38 but Wright answered with two layup and after Jovanic’s dunk, found Kenneth Ogbe for a 3-pointer to keep the Trojans at bay.
The Trojans had won six of seven games, but none of those opponents had the size and skill of the Utes. They had been averaging 76.4 points over the past five games before shooting just 38.5 percent against Utah, which improved to 9-0 at home this season.
USC has no seniors and relies heavily on underclassmen and seemed a step behind in trying to contain Utah’s motion offense. The Utes had 19 assists on 29 field goals and made 11 of 19 shots beyond the arc.
USC led 7-6 before the Utes went on a 22-4 run to take control in the first half. Jakob Poeltl, who was limited by foul trouble, made a layup to put the Utes ahead 28-11 with 7:06 left in the half.
Utah led by as many as 21 in the first half before settling for a 39-22 lead at halftime. Utah shot 58 percent while the Trojans made 27 percent from the field.
The Utes were so far ahead, it didn’t seem to matter that they were actually quite sloppy, with a few head-scratching, unforced turnovers and poor free-throw shooting.
Utah pressured nearly every drive to the basket and some Trojan attempts looked more like wishes than shots.
Southern Cal: The Trojans went just 2 for 5 from the free throw line. … USC grabbed 14 offensive rebounds but were still outworked by the conference’s best rebounding team, 38-32. … Katin Reinhardt, who missed everything on a couple attempts, heard an “air ball” every time he touched the ball.
Utah: The No. 10 ranking is the highest the Utes have reached since they closed the 1998-99 season at No. 6. … No Utes player logged more than Taylor’s 28 minutes. . Utah is sixth in the nation at defending 2-point shots (37.2 percent). … One of the biggest cheers of the night came when walk-on Austin Eastman made a 3-pointer in the final minutes.
Southern Cal: At Colorado on Sunday.
Utah: Hosts UCLA on Sunday.
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