Las Vegas • Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak turned and barked at USC's J.T. Terrell, perhaps surprising USC's star guard with an atypical response to the trash talk.
"Of course I can't guard you," Krystkowiak said. "I don't have a uniform."
Terrell had just started baking Utah's backcourt, first catching a highlight-reel dunk off a rebound, and then hitting a difficult jumper over the outstretched arm of Cedric Martin.
Terrell ran over to the Utes bench and told them in no uncertain terms that he couldn't be guarded by anyone at the moment. Krystkowiak's response told a story of just how competitive Utah would be in a 69-66 win over USC. His words went a long way toward propelling the Utes to a Pac-12 quarterfinal date with California on Thursday night.
"It was all in the moment," Krystkowiak said. "Terrell had it going pretty good, and he definitely ran towards our bench. But it's all in good fun. It's just part of the game."
The exchange came at a critical time. The Utes had just seen a nine-point lead trimmed to 47-45, and USC was threatening to take the game over. After Krystkowiak's words, Utah scored 13 of the next 15 points, and the Utes suddenly had a 13-point advantage.
In a season where Utah has at times found itself physically and mentally overwhelmed against many Pac-12 teams, Wednesday night was one time where Krystkowiak's team fought back. Every USC run was answered. Every great play the Trojans made was met with a response. Even the trash talk.
"We definitely fought them in the trenches," Utah center Jason Washburn said. "That's a team that has so much talent and athleticism. We knew that there would be times that they would challenge us. We had to rise and meet that challenge."
Utah vs. Cal
O MGM Grand Garden Arena (Las Vegas)
Thursday, 7 p.m.
TV • Pac-12 Network. Radio • 700 AM
Records • Utah 14-17, 5-13; California 20-10, 12-6
Last meeting • California, 64, Utah 46 (Feb. 28)
About the Utes • Jordan Loveridge scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds in Utah's first round win over USC. … Utah is currently the only team in the Pac-12 on a three-game winning streak.
About the Bears • Shooting guard Allen Crabbe is the Pac-12 Player of the Year. … The Bears finished in a tie for first place in the regular-season.