The 8th ranked Utah Basketball team falls hard to Arizona in Tucson Saturday 69-51. The 10th ranked Wildcats were led by TJ McConnell and freshman Stanley Johnson. McConnell played out of his mind and may have played his best game of his life in the first half. McConnell showed a rare display of offensive aggression to rally the Wildcats, creating his own shots while still setting up teammates and playing his hard nose defense. The senior finished with 16 points and six assists. The second half was all Stanley Johnson. Johnson was non-existent in the first half and then came alive for half two scoring 16 of his 18 points which also led the team in scoring.
Utah started out the game looking like they were justified with their ranking. Delon Wright stole the ball on the first Arizona possession and quickly brought the ball down for a two hand dunk. Wright scored the first 7 Utah points and Utah built up a nice 8 point lead. Isaiah Wright, Brekkott Chapman, Dallin Bachynski, Dakarai Tucker subbed in and Arizona started to close the lead to 12-8. Utah struggled on offense without some starters. Tucker had a nice steal to take some momentum back at 11:27 left in the first half mark but by the 5:52 mark, Arizona took their first lead of the game. Back and forth rest of the half. Utah’s offense turned into a team shooting three pointers or launching a rushed shot as the shot clock was running down. The shots just weren’t falling for the Utes and each only getting one shot as Arizona scooped up all of the rebounds.
Arizona started McConnell, Johnson, Rondae, Ashley, and Zeus while Utah went with Taylor, Wright, Poeltl, Loveridge and Reyes. This could be the last start for a while for Chris Reyes who struggled getting only one point and three rebounds.
The biggest difference for Arizona was their aggressive rebounding and lock down defense which saw Utah’s Delon Wright being slowed down for the first time this season. Wright scored 10 points in the game and seven of the points were the first 7 points for the Utes. Arizona also outworked the Pac-12’s best rebounding team, grabbing 21 more than the Utes (14-3, 4-1), including 17 on the offensive glass that led to 18 second-chance points. This will not get it done for the Utes.
No. 8 ranking is the highest the Utes have been since the 1998-1998 season where the Utes took on the Kentucky Wildcats in the 1998 National Championship game. The ranking was and matchup with the 10th ranked Wildcats was Utah’s first top 10 conference matchup since 1968.
This is Larry Kryskoviak’s 4th year as the head coach of the Utes and Utah has not beaten Arizona since joining the PAC-12. Coach Kryskoviak will get a chance to avenge this blowout loss when the Wildcats come to the Huntsman Center on Feb. 28th.
Utah returns home this week to host Washington State this Wednesday and Washington Sunday at 6:30 for their second of three Sunday games.