Man, they battled about as hard as I’ve seen the Utes battle Saturday afternoon against Arizona. Utah kept hanging around all game long, and even had a chance to win it on the final possession, but came up just short as they split the Arizona trip. Speaking of that final possession, it was about as good of a look as you’d want it, but a non-call (which you should never expect to get), and poor execution on Donnie Tillman’s part made it a very difficult final shot. Tillman receive the inbounds pass with less than 4 seconds remaining in the game under the backboard, and contorted up a strange shot that wasn’t that close. Tillman needed to take a second, give a good power dribble to position himself better, and attack the basket through Akot. That’s not how it turned out, however, and the Utes are back to .500 in Pac-12 play at 5-5. The fact they had a chance in the closing seconds was shocking, as Allonzo Trier ran over Justin Bibbins for an offensive foul, giving Utah the ball back after Bibbins hit a three to cut the lead to one.
Utah’s defense was strange tonight, because Arizona shot 63% on the game and 55% from three, which are numbers that usually mean you lose by 20+, but Utah forced 15 turnovers. Not to mention, Utah had 9 more 2nd chance points, so Utah got a lot more looks at the basket to help keep things close. Sedrick Barefield was a stud again tonight with 26 points on 8 of 12 shooting including 2 of 4 from three, and 8 of 8 from the free throw line. He was aggressive and smart all game long. David Collette was also good, with his 14 points and 6 rebounds. He did much better against Arizona’s length today, where it really bothered him the last matchup. He still needs another move, because he’s pretty predictable once he gets the ball on the block, and it leads to a lot of forced shots, and stripped balls. The one guy that struggled tonight was Justin Bibbins, at least shooting the ball. He was only 1 of 9, with his 1 being the three before the end of the game. He was in foul trouble again with 4, and Arizona was focused on him all game long. Utah needed that one more scorer and with Bibbins struggling, and Rawson only having 9 points, they just didn’t quite have the fire power to get the win.
After the Utes were down 13, I thought it could turn bad, but they just kept battling and eventually took the lead late in the first half and gave themselves one hell of a chance to win the game. Dusan Ristic had a career game, and torched the Utes, which Coach K was probably ok with, given the other guys on the roster. Treir had 16, and Deandre Ayton 15 but was the most impressive of the group. He torched Utah all over the floor. He’s really, really good.
After one of the best 2 game swings of the year for the Utes, they now go to Colorado next Friday, where hopefully they can continue having the upper hand on the Buffs.