Going into Sunday’s action, USC was one of 24 teams around the country who had not yet been defeated on their home floor.
Utah’s Jakob Poeltl made sure the Trojans didn’t leave that way.
The Utes defeated USC 80-69 behind what was arguably Poeltl’s best game of the season. The Austrian 7-footer scored 29 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and dished out four assists in the contest while only missing two shots from the field. He also anchored a defense inside that didn’t allow the Trojans easy looks at the rim, plus he forced four steals himself with active hands.
He scored off of offensive rebounds and off of sweet post moves, including this nifty little one where used the basket to protect the ball after a drop step toward the baseline.
Jakob Poeltl earns the #Pac12Hoops #12Best Moment with this sweet movehttps://t.co/TOIiB2S7aJ
— Pac-12 Networks (@Pac12Networks) February 22, 2016
It was the kind of performance that reminds you why he’s considered a future lottery pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, and also one that continues to build his case for the Pac-12 Player of the Year award.
And if Utah can continue the run they’re on right now, that award could very well be his at the end of the year.
The Utes have now won four in a row and nine of their past 11, including two tough road victories over both of the Los Angeles schools this weekend. Larry Krystkowiak and company are now sitting at 21-7 with a 10-5 record in the Pac-12. Plus, all of their last three games are at home in the Huntsman Center, and one of them even comes against Arizona, who is a game up on them for the conference lead.
They have to feel good about where they’re at now. This team is a lock for the NCAA Tournament, and if the Utes can hold their home floor they have a good chance to pick up at least a share of the Pac-12 crown after winning a really solid five of nine games on the road in the league.
Given where the program was when Krystkowiak took over in 2011, with only one NCAA Tournament berth in the previous six years and entering a new, tougher conference — it’s hard not to be impressed with where Utah is now.