45 seconds to go, with the shot clock winding down, Utah up by 3, the Utes needed a score to seemingly put the game out of reach. With hot shooters on the court like Justin Bibbins, Utah turned to junior guard Parker Van Dyke. Letting a desperation three go while the shot clock expired, Van Dyke drilled it. The Bruins couldn’t pull off the come back, and the Utes held on to win, 84-78, keeping their tournament hopes well alive.
“The shot with 45 seconds is something that I’ll never forget”, said Van Dyke. “I got the ball with the shot clock running down. Didn’t really have time and I knew to I had to make a play so I let it fly and it felt good when it left my hands.”
With their 5th straight victory last night, Utah didn’t just defeat UCLA, they moved ahead of the Bruins for third place in the PAC 12 standings with just a week of regular season basketball to be played. The Utes avenged their earlier season loss to UCLA in front of a playoff-like atmosphere at the Huntsman Center Thursday night.
With both teams coming into the game desperately needing a win to improve their resume for the looming NCAA Tournament, the Utes and Bruins came out firing from 3-point range. Mid-way through the first-half was a scare for Utah, as center David Collette, who hit his first four shots, went down and was escorted into the locker room. Still, the Utes led 47-40 at the half.
Collette ultimately returned, and Utah built a 14-point lead early in the second half. Collette was automatic all night, leading the Utes with 21-points, going 9-for-9 from the field. Bibbins continued his hot streak, scoring 17 points while also adding 10 assists, as the Utes needed extra support without the play of injured guard Sedrick Barefield.
However, it was Van Dyke who stole the show against the Bruins. Four 3-pointers by the Salt Lake native cooled off a furious second-half comeback by UCLA, including two from beyond the arc in the final two minutes. The 6″3 guard also sunk two clutch free throws to seal the victory, high-fiving the courtside Utah fans after being fouled.
Van Dyke’s career high 18 points was enough to bolt the Utes into third place in the PAC 12 by night’s end, in a game that was seen all throughout the country on ESPN, with Bill Walton calling the game.
Regarding the win last night, Van Dyke had this to say, “The win against UCLA gave our team a lot of confidence. It made us realize how good we can be and that we can compete with anyone as long as we play our game.”
With a win on Thursday, the Utes now turn their attention to an even more pivotal matchup, as USC, another team that defeated Utah earlier in the year, makes their approach into Salt Lake City. The Utes sit one game behind the Trojans, and both teams are hot. USC has won three in a row, while the Utes will be gunning for their sixth straight win.
“We need to take the same focus into the next games that we had for last nights game,” Van Dyke said.
Another key component in Utah’s recent success is playing at home in front of their fans. The Utes are 11-2 at home at the Huntsman Center. “The Huntsman Center is a great atmosphere and we as a team play better together at home,” Van Dyke commented. “I love playing at home in front of friends and family with the team that I grew up cheering for.”
In terms of their tournament dreams, the Utes control their own destiny. Last season, four PAC 12 teams danced in March, and with a win last night, Utah is right where they want to be.