It was certainly much closer than expected and at times looked doubtful that Arizona could come up with a win.
However, the Wildcats used three-point shooting and stepped up their defense en route to a 70-61 win Saturday at McKale.
Utah jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead behind two free throws by Chris Hines and three-pointer by Cedric Martin. Solomon Hill tried to get something going with a layup, but Hines added another three and Dijon Farr jumper to get up 10-2 with under 16 minutes left in the first half. Jason Washburn then gave Utah the double-digit lead coming out of the timeout and Arizona continued to struggle to figure out Utah’s defense.
The scoring for both teams pretty much stopped with the only points being a Josiah Turner free throw until about the 11 minutes mark when a Blake Wilkinson jumper was matched by a jumper from Hill to make the score 14-5. Martin then came up with a three-point play and the lead was up to 12 for the Utes with 10:23 to go.
Arizona then mounted a comeback as Fogg hit two consecutive three-pointers to cut the lead to 17-11. Nick Johnson then hit two free throws and after not scoring for over seven minutes, it took Arizona a short amount of time to get right back in the game. Washburn then ended the run with a three-point play, as Utah’s lead was seven with a little under 9 minutes left. Hines and Farr then hit a three not too long after and the run was basically a moot point as Utah led 26-13 with 6:43 left.
The Wildcats tried to get back into it with a layup by Perry that was matched by Washburn. On the next possession, Fogg got a four-point play and it looked like Arizona would force a turnover due to the shot clock, but Utah came up with a bucket and led 30-19 with 3:46 left. Farr extended that lead to 13, but Johnson was able to hit a four-point play that got it right back to nine with two minutes left.
With a little over one minute left, Perry hit a jumper and on a missed free throw, Angelo Chol picked up his third foul of the first half. The foul allowed Farr to hit a free throw and Utah went into the half up 33-25.
The start of the second half did not go much better, as Arizona got a shot-clock violation and Martin hit a three for Utah. The teams then exchanged points before Hines hit yet another three for the Utes and Hill answered with a two to cut the lead to 41-31 with about 16 minutes left. Hines then made a layup in traffic and Fogg did the same, as it remains a ten-point game with the Wildcats taking a timeout.
A few minutes later, Arizona came out of a timeout and saw Brendon Lavender and Fogg hit a three-pointer each to bring the Wildcats to within 43-39 and force the Utes to call timeout. A Hill free throw brought Arizona within striking distance and the Wildcats proceeded to get a three from Lavender to tie, another three from Fogg, free throw from Hill and then two more threes from Lavender to finally gets its first lead of the game with 12:05 left.
The Utes came right back with a jumper by Washburn and three-pointer by Martin to grab the 48-46 lead with about ten minutes left. Utah built its lead to five before Hill knocked down a two-pointer and a free throw to get within two points of Utah. Johnson picked up a steal seconds later and drove the length of the court and the Wildcats were once again tied with about eight minutes to go.
The teams then exchanged baskets, but Kareem Storey hit a three-pointer to put Utah up 56-53 with 6:47 left in the game. It took about 20 seconds for Johnson to erase that lead with a three-pointer of his own, but Storey came back and hit his second in a row to get the lead right now. After an exchange of two-pointers, Lavender hit a three that times the game at 61 with under four minutes left. It stayed that way until Johnson hit a three with a little over a minute left to give the wildcats the three-point lead at 64-61. Arizona would then add free throws and was able to hang on.