SALT LAKE CITY — After a mostly lifeless performance Thursday, Utah bounced back Sunday to defeat the visiting USC Trojans 79-65 at the Huntsman Center.
USC (19-9, 8-7) cut Utah’s double-digit lead late in the game down to five before Utah (15-12, 6-9) went on a 10-0 run over a two minute period to close out the game to beat the Trojans.
Sophomore forward Timmy Allen led Utah with a game-high 21 points and 10 rebounds in a win in which Utah played aggressively from the opening tipoff.
Utah junior guard Alfonso Plummer came off the bench to add 18 points to add a valuable shooting threat to a team that struggled as of late offensively. All of Plummer’s points came from behind the arc, making five 3-pointers in 24 minutes of play. Plummer was the team’s second-leading scorer a few days after leading Utah in a loss to UCLA.
“I thought Fons had a terrific weekend," Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "When you look at his numbers, he’s playing with a lot of confidence and you’ve been watching us recently we’ve been having a hard time putting the ball in the basket so those three’s add up really fast and he’s not afraid to shoot them."
Utah built up a 15-point second-half lead before the Trojans went on an 8-0 run to threaten a young Utah team in need of a bounce-back win. But Utah’s Mikael Jantunen and Brandon Carlson turned up the intensity and led the charge to build up another large lead. Jantunen finished with 13 points, five rebounds and four assists, and Carlson added 11 points, eight rebounds, three rebounds and two blocks in the win.
"I think we have a few guys that are a little bit hesitant right now so that was great, his effort was there and Mickey’s always going to bring effort to the game," Krystkowiak said. "Both of the games were a little gritty when you get those big bodies out there and we needed some of that size and the energy was key I thought.”
The Utes started out the game aggressive and took an early 16-6 lead behind the effort of Allen, who worked his way repeatedly into the paint to hit contested jump shots. Allen cooled off in the latter part of the half, but finished with 8 points to help Utah to a 6-point halftime lead.
But it was Plummer who made the biggest difference offensively in the first half. Plummer was one of the first off the bench Sunday after a 16-point performance Thursday and immediately hit a 3-pointer seconds after getting on the court. The junior led Utah in scores at the halftime break with 9 points on 2-of-5 shooting from the field.
And though Utah was doing well offensively, it was their effort on the defensive end of the floor that helped Utah take an early lead. Utah forced 10 first-half turnovers, including four turnovers in the final five minutes of the half, which resulted in 14 Utah points. Utah outrebounded the Trojans and kept USC from getting easy second-chance points.
USC went on two separate runs — a 7-0 run that was followed up by a 6-0 run — midway through the first half to take their first lead of the game amid a three minute Utah scoring drought. But Utah bounced back on a Plummer 3-pointer and a Jaxon Brenchley 3-pointer.
The Trojans were led in scoring by NBA prospect Onyeka Okonhwu, who finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Elijah Weaver added 13 points, including three key 3-pointers, and three rebounds.
Utah returns to action Wednesday on the road against the Stanford Cardinal at the Maples Pavilion in Stanford, California. The game tips off at 8 p.m. MST and will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.