The Runnin’ Utes have been looking to gain ground ever since their winning ways were simmered by the Wildcats down in Arizona a few weeks back in a Pac-12 showdown that bumped them down in the standings. The cozy confines of Salt Lake City have been very kind to them–including their 15th straight home victory last Sunday with a 77-56 victory over Washington. Now it’s a matter of them taking that level of performance to Pauley Pavilion as they look to boost their stock even further against conference rival UCLA on Thursday.
The Bruins will be eager to host a tilt after playing seven of their last nine on the road, and will play seven of their last 11 games of the regular season at home. Not to mention that they are 9-1 at home, as opposed to being 2-8 away from Pauley Pavilion. UCLA has been so-so in conference play, going 3-4 with two Pac-12 contests coming up in their first week back at home–with Colorado coming to SoCal on Saturday following the visit from Utah on Thursday.
This will mark the second meeting this season between the Utes and Bruins. Last time these schools met on the court, Utah ran away with a 71-39 victory in which they held UCLA to 28.8% from the field. That number isn’t terribly surprising, given that Utah is second in the nation in victories with a 20-plus point margin, averaging a 23.5 point cushion in conference play.
Another double digit game from guard Bryce Alford could be UCLA’s ticket to keeping the score closer, as Alford has put up such numbers in 18 of 20 games in addition to shooting 88.5% from the charity stripe. Also, Utah has not won in LA since 1961–a stat that could perhaps give the Bruins a bit of confidence as they try to start this home stand off on the right foot.
Tip off for this game is scheduled for 10 p.m. ET tomorrow evening.
*Section Photo credit to Jeff Gross, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Russ Isabella, USA Today Sports.