What to watch: Utah at UCLA

Utah (17-7, 6-6) at UCLA (19-5, 8-3)
Saturday, 2 p.m., Pauley Pavilion
TV: Pac-12 Networks (JB Long, Don MacLean)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

No. 1: How will Utah fare away from home? On Thursday, the Utes beat USC to finally notch their first road win since Jan. 19, 2013. With a trip through the Bay Area still looming, it may very well be their last of the regular season.

Most bothersome for the up-and-coming program is the inability to finish on the road. In their five road losses in conference play, they thrice blew double-digit leads.

The Bruins had one of their worst offensive halves of the season in Salt Lake City last month, and haven’t completely shaken the slow-start bug since. They can’t afford losing at Pauley Pavilion to a lesser team, not when first place is within sights again thanks to Arizona State’s upset of Arizona.

No. 2: Delon Wright. The younger brother of NBA forward Dorell Wright turned out to be a major recruiting coup for the Utes, transferring from the City College of San Francisco to become their most versatile player.

The 6-foot-5 guard stuffed the box score the last time he saw the Bruins, chipping in 12 points, eight rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks. He ranks top-12 in the league in each of those categories.

Perhaps most impressive is his 3.24 block percentage. Among those who play at least 40 percent of their team’s minutes, that’s good enough to rank him top-20. In a group that otherwise stands at least 6-foot-7, 215, Wright gives up at least two inches and 30 pounds.

Utah isn’t afraid to lean on him. Wright’s 35.96 minutes per game leads the Pac-12, and he has hit least 40 minutes in six conference games.

No. 3: Attacking the paint. UCLA did itself in by shooting 31 percent at Utah last month, but failing to get to the line didn’t help either. The Bruins only took eight free throws, a season low by five.

They took at least 24 in their following five games, but their numbers on the whole still aren’t impressive. Through conference play, UCLA is just ninth in free-throw rate. Utah is third-best in keeping teams off the line.

Utah starting lineup
C – Jeremy Olsen, So., 6-10, 232: 5.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg,
F – Jordan Loveridge, So., 6-6, 210: 16.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.8 apg
F – Dakarai Tucker, So., 6-5, 189: 8.0 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 39.0 3P%
G – Brandon Taylor, So., 5-10, 165: 10.9 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 3.8 apg
G – Delon Wright, Jr., 6-5, 178: 16.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 5.4 apg

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  • Joseph B. Lowe

    What? No baseball report?