Many coaches say that every game comes down to one or two plays. Saturday night, it came down to a blockout. The Runnin' Utes neglected to block out 6-3 junior guard Gabe York as he was shooting the second of two free throws. York missed the free throw. Instead of securing the rebound and continuing with a one-point lead, the Runnin' Utes allowed York to run right down the lane uncontested, grab his own miss, and put it back in to give Arizona the lead at the 1:58 mark. Utah played from behind the rest of the game, eventually dropping the contest 63-57 in the Jon M. Huntsman Center.
One play. One rebound. One missed assignment. And one loss the Utes couldn't afford... at home. With the win, Arizona snapped Utah's 18-game home winning streak and secured no less than a share of the conference title. Utah drops into sole possession of second place with the Oregon Ducks nipping at their heels, just one game back.
Utah, once again, struggled to score, especially from the three-point line, where Arizona held the home town team to just 31.8 percent shooting from deep. Junior guard Brandon Taylor went 2-for-7 against the Zona pressure and was kept entirely on the perimeter until the end of the game when he missed a crucial layup.
Senior guard Delon Wright led the Utes (appropriately on Senior Night) with 17 points, five rebounds, five assists, three blocked shots, and one steal. But the Utes got only one other player in double figures (Arizona had four), as junior Jordan Loveridge added 10 points and six rebounds.
Arizona took it to Utah on the glass... again... out-rebounding the passive Utes 44-35, 16-12 on the offensive boards. The extra possessions led to an enormous 16-6 edge on second chance points.
But it's interesting to note that Arizona center Kaleb Tarczewski was able to play the entire game and only garner four fouls, including a flagrant elbow into the face of Utes senior center Dallin Bachynski. The Zona center had body contact on most Utah drives, but was called for few fouls. Two Utah players fouled out in the game, while Tarczewski was the only Wildcat with even four fouls.
On the game, Arizona made more free throws than Utah, the home team, attempted (27-21). The Wildcats shot 37 free throws to Utah's 21, a huge disparity in a game in which the visiting Wildcats were crashing into the lane for rebounds and playing hands-on defense for much of the night.
Arizona was led by Tarczewski with 13 points (on 7-of-9 from the free throw line), six rebounds, and one block. York and Stanley Johnson both reached 12 points apiece, and Johnson added 11 rebounds to the Wildcats total. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 10 points mostly on 6-of-8 from the free throw line and collected eight boards himself.
The loss drops the Utes to 22-6, 12-4 in the Pac-12. More importantly, it eliminated Utah from conference title contention. Arizona would have to lose two straight to finish the season, with the Utes winning out. Not going to happen. However, after starting his career at Utah 6-25, Krystkowiak is likely to complete a total reversal of fortunes with at least a 24-6 record prior to the post season.