After opening the season with a 14-0 record through non-conference play, USC found itself ranked as high as No. 22 back on Dec. 30. But now, after falling to Utah on the road Thursday night, the Trojans find themselves on their first losing streak of the season and the losers of three of their last four games.
On a night when No. 25 USC opened the game on a 10-0 run, the Trojans suffered costly scoring droughts and were overwhelmed by strong, lengthy scoring runs from Utah. The Trojans (15-3, 1-3) fell to Utah on the road Thursday night, 86-64.
USC is now 1-3 to open conference play this season. Through the first four conference games of this season, the Trojans have suffered two losses by a margin of over 20 points, including a 23-point loss to Oregon on Dec. 30 and a 22-point loss to Utah on Thursday.
After USC opened the game by scoring 10 unanswered points, Utah (12-4, 3-1) answered with a 16-4 run that gave the Utes a lead midway through the first half that they would not relinquish for the remainder of the game.
Utah missed its first five field goal attempts of the game, but then proceeded to make 18-of-23 shots (78.3 field goal percentage) to conclude the first half. The Utes’ strong finish to the first half put USC behind 44-31 at the break.
An 11-0 Utah run spanning just over three minutes in the second half put the Utes ahead of the Trojans 66-45 with 10 minutes remaining in regulation.
In a losing effort, USC sophomore forward Chimezie Metu scored 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field. He also reeled in five rebounds and recorded two blocked shots. Metu, a 74 percent shooter from the free throw line this season, went just 5-of-10 (50 percent) from the foul line Thursday night.
After USC shot 10-of-21 (47.6 percent) from the free throw line in Sunday’s one-point loss to Cal at home, the Trojans’ struggles at the line continued against Utah. USC shot 14-of-26 (53.8 percent) from the foul line against the Utes on Thursday night.
Utah freshman guard Devon Daniels was the leading performer for the Utes, scoring 17 points. Daniels was 3-for-3 from 3-point range Thursday.
As a team, Utah shot 9-of-17 (52.9 percent) from the 3-point line over USC. Meanwhile, the Trojans shot 6-of-16 (37.5 percent) from long distance.
USC junior guard Elijah Stewart struggled with foul trouble against Utah, as he was forced to sit out in the second half after picking up his fourth personal foul. Stewart, USC’s second-leading scorer (averaging 13.9 points per game), finished the game 0-of-6 from the field, recording no points scored in the Trojans’ loss.
USC will continue its road trip this weekend when it travels to the Coors Event Center to take on Colorado (10-6, 0-3) Sunday night in another Pac-12 matchup.
Consecutive conference losses — especially by large margins — will likely push the Trojans out of the top 25 rankings for the first time since Dec. 15 of this season.