Nick Rakocevic scored two of his game-high 16 points on a put-back layup that elevated host USC to a come-from-behind, 56-52 win over Utah on Thursday at the Galen Center in Los Angeles.
USC (17-4, 6-2 Pac-12) trailed for more than 31 minutes of game time, but rallied to lead when it counted. Rakocevic’s 15th rebound of the night set up his go-head basket with less than 20 seconds remaining, and broke a 52-52 tie.
On the subsequent defensive possession, Onyeka Okongwu blocked Timmy Allen’s game-tying attempt at the rim to seal the win.
Utah (12-9, 3-5) held USC to 8-of-23 shooting from the floor in the first half and never trailed before intermission.
Four Utes scored in double-figures, led by Allen’s 13 points. Allen added nine rebounds, dished out three assists, and contributed to a stifling defensive effort with three steals.
Branden Carlson added 11 points, Rylan Jones scored 10, and Riley Battin finished with 10 points and nine rebounds.
Although Utah led for the entirety of the first half, its lead in the early second half never exceeded nine points. USC’s rally began in earnest when it cranked up its defense intensity and held Utah without a point for 6:22.
Just five USC players scored on Thursday, with four carrying the bulk of the load. The quartet of Rakocevic, Elijah Weaver, Jonah Mathews and Okongwu combined for 54 for the Trojans’ 56 points.
Weaver finished with 14 points, Mathews closed out his night with two free throws to cap his 13-point effort, and Okongwu added 11 points to go with his four blocked shots and 11 rebounds.
USC has now won five of its last six and heads into the month of February vying for a Pac-12 regular-season championship. The Trojans came into Thursday’s action tied in the loss column with Oregon, Colorado and Stanford atop the conference standings.
USC has not won a Pac-12 title since it was the Pac-10 in 1984-85, splitting the crown with Washington.
—Field Level Media