- Associated Press - Friday, January 17, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Delon Wright is mastering the art of taking over a game.

Utah’s junior point guard found a bunch of ways to make life miserable for USC. Wright drove to the rim and repeatedly scored layups or earned trips to the free throw line. He got his hands into passing lanes and kept the Trojan offense off-balance with steals and deflections.

Wright proved to be a one-man wrecking crew at times. He scored 22 points, collected six rebounds, six steals and five assists to lift Utah to an 84-66 victory over USC on Thursday night.

Much of what he did on offense came directly off the plays he made on defense. That’s the way Wright likes it.

“When we let loose on the defensive end, it gives us a better chance to score in our offense,” Wright said. “We don’t have to worry about trying to score when the defense is set in zone. So I feel like we need to get these turnovers and try to push the ball and get easy baskets instead of having to run a play.”

Dakarai Tucker added 18 points and made four 3-pointers while Jordan Loveridge chipped in 16 to help the Utes (13-4, 2-3 Pac-12) snap a two-game losing streak.

Pe’Shon Howard led USC with 16 points and J.T. Terrell chipped in 12. It wasn’t enough to prevent the Trojans (9-8, 0-4) from losing their fourth straight game in Pac-12 play.

USC lost despite shooting 50 percent (25-of-50) from the field. Utah matched the Trojans by shooting 49.2 percent (30-of-61) from the field.

The Utes gained an advantage by also forcing 16 turnovers - including eight steals - and had a 27-14 edge in points off turnovers.

“We couldn’t finish,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “It seemed like we couldn’t finish in the lane in the second half. We had a couple crucial turnovers, missed some layups.”

Utah broke open a close game early in the second half behind hot shooting from Tucker and Wright. The Utes used a 14-4 run to take control. Tucker sparked the run with a 3-pointer on Utah’s opening possession of the half. Wright capped it by converting a three-point play that gave Utah a 52-40 lead with 16:15 remaining.

USC did not go away. The Trojans chipped away at the lead and cut their deficit to five when Omar Oraby scored a layup to make it 60-55. Then Wright threw the hammer down and Utah ran away for good.

Wright fueled a decisive 17-2 run for Utah. He stole the ball from Oraby on consecutive possessions and turned each one into a layup to push the Utes’ lead back to double digits. When Dallin Bachynski capped the run with a dunk, Utah held a 77-57 lead with 4:51 remaining.

“To be able to get deflections and get out in transition and score points off your defense - that’s a coach’s dream because then you don’t have to manufacture too much,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “I thought Delon made some great decisions. He got his hands on some balls for us.”

USC found ways to score in the paint throughout the first half. The Trojans slashed to the rim repeatedly while forcing Utah to settle for jump shots. They shot 53.8 percent (14-of-26) from the field before halftime and outscored the Utes 22-18 in the paint.

For a while, it looked like that would be the exact formula USC needed to take control of the game before halftime.

USC twice carved out a four-point lead, going up 17-13 the second time on Oraby’s jumper. The Utes battled back, taking a one-point lead on a Loveridge 3-pointer. But the Trojans answered with a 7-0 run, which culminated in a dunk from Jacobs and a 24-18 USC lead with 8:04 remaining in the half.

Utah did not stay down for long. The Utes charged back in front on the strength of a 12-1 run. They retook a 30-25 lead with 4:19 left before halftime on back-to-back right corner 3-pointers from Tucker.

“That was my spot in high school,” Tucker said.

Utah led by as much seven before halftime, going up 36-29 on Mario Kovacevic’s tip-in basket with 1:39 left. The Trojans rallied to cut the deficit down in the final minute and closed within 38-36 when Byron Wesley scored a layup with 16 seconds remaining in the half.

Krystkowiak felt like Utah played much harder on offense than during the team’s road trip to Washington last week and it paid off. The Utes managed to stay a step ahead of USC - even when it was a tight ball game before halftime.

“It’s a misconception when everybody is judged on how hard they play and it’s typically correlated with defense,” Krystkowiak said. “There hasn’t been any question with this team up to this point that we play really hard on defense. But I think it’s important to always remember you have to play really hard on offense. You have to be aggressive.”

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