Utah-UCLA Preview

Continuing to dominate on both ends of the floor, Utah quietly remains one of the best teams in the country.

UCLA knows all too well just how good the Utes can be.

After obliterating the Bruins earlier this month, No. 11 Utah goes for its first win in Los Angeles in over 53 years Thursday night.

The Utes (16-3, 6-1 Pac-12) are shooting 49.9 percent for one of the best marks in college basketball, and they’re third in the conference with 75.1 points per game. Utah is also holding opponents to an average of 56.5 points – the best mark in the Pac-12 – and 37.9 percent from the floor.

"Basketball is a little bit unique because it’s always flowing," coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "Most times, people think you gain confidence from offense. But this is an example where we’re gaining some confidence knowing we can defend some people and it makes the game fun at the other end."

Aside from a 69-51 loss at then-No. 10 Arizona on Jan. 17, the Utes have won their other six conference games by an average of 23.5 points – including a 71-39 rout of UCLA on Jan. 4.

Bruins leading scorer Bryce Alford, averaging 15.8 points, went scoreless on 0-of-10 shooting as UCLA was held to its fewest points since a 34-25 win at Oregon on Feb. 17. 1967.

"If you guard a team like that, they’re going to shoot bad shots eventually if you don’t give them the shots they want," Utes forward Jordan Loveridge said afterward. "If you make them shoot contested shots and get the rebounds, they’re going to have a tough night."

Utah has taken two of the last three matchups in the series, with both wins coming at home. The Utes have been outscored by a combined 41 points in dropping both road meetings since joining the Pac-12 in 2011-12.

Before those defeats, Utah’s only win in four prior visits to UCLA was an 88-79 victory on Dec. 29, 1961.

The Utes are looking to keep building after easily defeating Washington 77-56 on Sunday. Junior Dakarai Tucker led the way with a career-high 19 points off the bench and Brandon Taylor scored 14 as Utah shot 53.8 percent.

"We do a great job as a team at not forcing shots," Taylor said. "We’re very patient offensively. We may get sped up and turn the ball over sometimes but, for the most part, we’ve done a good job and we’ve grown so much in having a great pace offensively."

The Bruins (11-9, 3-4) return home after closing a 1-2 road swing with back-to-back defeats. UCLA fell 66-55 at Oregon State last Thursday and 82-64 at Oregon on Saturday while shooting a combined 35.8 percent.

"As coaches we need to figure things out," coach Steve Alford said. "It’s about staying positive, whether it’s difficult or not, we have to stay positive. We believe in this team. They’re going to continue to hear that from us. We have to get better and continue to work on the things that we need to work on."

Big man Tony Parker missed the last two games with a back injury, leaving his status for Thursday unclear. The 6-foot-9 junior was averaging 15.3 points on 64.1 percent shooting over a four-game stretch before sitting out.

UCLA has dropped each of its four games against Top 25 foes by an average of 26.5 points.