3. Utah Utes (13-10, 7-4 Pac-12) LW: 7
Trailing by 22 in the second half of Saturday’s contest at UCLA, it appeared the flame that coach Larry Krystkowiak lit under Utah’s Pac-12 season had burned out.
That is, until his leaders decided against it.
Boosted by 22 points from freshman star Timmy Allen, the Utes salvaged their hopes for a top-4 seed in the conference tournament, completing their comeback against the Bruins and sweep of the LA schools with a buzzer beater 3 from Parker Van Dyke in a 93-92 win.
The senior guard, who admitted “everything kind of went our way,” was one of four players to reach double figures with 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting from 3-point range. Senior Sedrick Barefield had 22 and freshman Riley Battin added 19.
Despite trailing by six with 35 seconds, Utah never broke its pursuit. While Van Dyke hit the big shot, plays like Battin’s steal and Allen’s offensive rebound created opportunity. And at the end, the Utes left with their fifth Pac-12 road victory and a tie for second in the standings.
Considering its non-conference season, Utah has done an excellent job of accelerating its rebuild. On Saturday, it became the first school since Arizona in 2016-17 to sweep all four of the California schools, a tribute to Krystkowiak’s preparation. Next year, a top-30 recruiting class with four-star guard Rylan Jones will arrive in Salt Lake City, which should help field a competitive team around Allen’s development.
However, the Utes would like to make a splash in the immediate future. With four of their last seven games at home, they hold the opportunity to do so.
This week’s series is crucial, as the Utes host Arizona and Arizona State, which is one of two teams tied with Utah in second place. Against the Sun Devils, Krystkowiak will likely seek the production of Barefield, who has averaged 20.6 points in his last three meetings against ASU.