SALT LAKE CITY — Larry Drew II held onto the ball and a two-point lead atop the key as the seconds ticked down.
After what felt like an eternity, Drew got exactly what he was looking for: A screen from Travis Wear, a Utah defensive switch and an easy driving layup to put the game out of reach and spur UCLA to a 57-53 victory at Jon M. Huntsman Center on Thursday.
“That was a big-time play by Larry Drew there down the stretch,” a giddy coach Ben Howland said.
And yet Howland was hesitant to name senior guard Drew, who tied for the Bruins in scoring with 12 points, the player of the game – the bus driver also turned in an impressive effort.
What was billed as a blackout for Utah fans turned into a whiteout hours before game time, with 10 inches of snow accumulating and roads looking more like ice sheets than asphalt.
UCLA arrived at the arena with just more than an hour to tipoff, while the referees only made it by 30 minutes after being forced to take the light rail.
“At one point, I didn’t think we were going to make it,” Drew said. “We were in traffic and then our bus started hitting some back and side streets.”
UCLA’s first road game of the season followed suit – things didn’t go exactly as planned.
The Utes held the Bruins (13-3, 3-0 Pac-12) to their lowest point total of the season while freshman forward and leading scorer Shabazz Muhammad finished with a paltry six points, a season low.
“Everybody has the same four letters across their chest,” Drew said.
“Some guys are going to have off nights. The rest of us have to pick each other up and hold each other accountable.”
Utah (8-7, 0-3) made UCLA’s win an ugly one by sucking its defense into the low post and forcing outside shots. Add some rowdy, late-arriving fans and what was once a 13-point lead quickly disappeared.
“I like the test that Utah gave us,” said freshman guard Kyle Anderson, who finished with 11 points and eight rebounds.
“The crowd was a big factor and it gave them a lot of momentum. For us to buckle down and keep the lead was big.”
UCLA will travel over the Rocky Mountains to face Colorado (11-4, 1-2) at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
Email Strong at email@example.com.