1320 KFAN Sports Reporter Ben "Napoleon" Wilson (@napoleonKFAN)
UCLA brought their offensive show to the Huntsman Center last night for the first time in over 80 years. UCLA, powered by freshman sensation Shabazz Muhammad, came into Thursday evening's game averaging nearly 80 points per contest. Muhammad accounted for 20 of those 80 points. The Running Utes, however, have established a defensive identity in Coach Larry Krystkowiak's 2nd year at the helm.
Utah's defense was solid, highlighted by Cedric Martin's individual effort in marking Muhammad. Martin's D limited the superstar to just 6 points on 3 of 13 shooting. After the game Martin was asked how he was able to keep Muhammad in check. "I didn’t play like a baby. I played him like a grown man. Everybody kept saying he was the No. 1 player in the nation. I didn’t let it phase me. I got up in his grill as much as I could, talking, hitting, whatever I had to do to keep him down to the six points he had."
But the defensive effort wasn't enough to hide Utah's offensive shortcomings. Utah shot 39% from the field in the losing effort including Glen Dean going just 1 for 11 from the field. Dean didn't let his clearly off night keep him from launching as he fired up 9 three point attempts and connected on just one. You could say that Dean's poor shooting cost the Utes the contest as he fired up 2 wide open triples that didn't go in.
It's strange that the Utes didn't look for freshman Jordan Loveridge coming down the stretch. After a scoreless first half on 0-6 shooting, J-Lo started to feel it as he went 5 for 9 with 11 points after the rough start. Loveridge is clearly the Utes' most skilled offensive player and it was disappointing to see the ball in Dean's hands rather than the young freshman standout Loveridge. Watch for J-Lo to have a big game on Saturday against a talent-depleted USC squad. Utah should pick up their first PAC-12 win in that contest, assuming they keep up the defensive intensity.
I'll be interacting with Running Ute fans on Twitter leading up to Saturday's home game vs the USC Trojans. Tweet your thoughts on this year's Running Ute hoops squad to @napoleonKFAN.