UCLA-Utah Preview

The basket must look very big for Utah, especially after a dynamic offensive effort in its Pac-12 opener.

The opposite is true for UCLA, which can point to abysmal shooting as the reason for its longest losing streak in five seasons.

The 10th-ranked Utes can add to those woes by handing the visiting Bruins a fifth straight defeat Sunday.

These teams are fairly close in average points, with Utah at 76.3 and UCLA 74.2 to put them among the best in the Pac-12.

That only tells part of the tale since Utah (11-2, 1-0) has won four straight and averaged 81.3 points on 57.5 percent shooting in the last three. The Utes shot 56.9 percent and made 11 of 19 3-pointers to crush Southern California 79-55 on Friday.

"Guys were hitting shots, that’s the main thing. When we are hitting outside shots, it opens up everything," said leading scorer Delon Wright, who was only needed to contribute 11 points as he matched a season high with 10 assists.

UCLA (8-6, 0-1) is enduring its longest slide since dropping five straight Nov. 26-Dec. 12, 2009. The Bruins are averaging 56.0 points and shooting 32.4 percent during this skid, numbers that drop to 50.0 and 29.5 over the last three games.

The latest woeful effort was Friday’s 62-56 loss at Colorado. The Bruins shot 31.4 percent – their worst mark in a conference game since finishing at 31.3 percent in a 61-51 defeat at Washington on March 3, 2007.

The player most emblematic of these woes is leading scorer Bryce Alford, who made 2 of 16 shots for a season-low eight points and missed all nine 3-point attempts versus the Buffaloes. He averages 16.8 points.

"This was one game he didn’t shoot it well," said his father, coach Steve Alford. "He has a lot of pressure on him, a lot on his shoulders. I understand that and appreciate that. He gave a great effort.

"It was just a night where he couldn’t make a shot. You’re going to have nights like that. Hopefully, he doesn’t have too many of them."

Alford’s 40.3 overall shooting percentage and 33.3 mark on 3-pointers both rank him second-worst among qualifying Pac-12 players.

Wright, meanwhile, is the conference leader in field-goal percentage at 58.1. Now he won’t have to shoulder as much of the scoring load since Jordan Loveridge returned to the starting lineup Friday in his second game back after a seven-game absence due to a knee injury.

Loveridge looked sharp against the Trojans as he made three 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 14 points and six boards.

"It helps a lot because now we have another threat who can make 3s and create offense," Wright said.

Wright is one of three Los Angeles-area natives in the starting lineup along with Brandon Taylor and Chris Reyes.

The Bruins could be in trouble after losing by an average of 24.7 points in going 0-3 against ranked teams.

"We know that these two road games are tough," said Norman Powell, who scored 22 points Friday. "Now, we just need to focus on getting the split and go up against this really good Utah team."

UCLA leads the series 7-5. These teams split in 2013-14.